Sunday, 9 October 2011

Doing It Like Priestley




Just got back from the Faversham Hops Festival - a glorious, English end to the summer indeed. Faversham is a lovely old town in the heart of the 'Garden of England', the county of Kent, and it took no more than a couple of hours to get there on a red London bus. To while away the journey I revisited J. B. Priestly's Good Companions, which I'd downloaded to my for the purpose.



The Good Companions has a fascinating history since Priestly wrote it at a time when he was worn down with tragedy - the effects of the First World War, the death of his young and beautiful wife from cancer and the loss of his Father, tragically early at the age of 56. A single dad, trying desperately to pay the bills and bring up two daughters alone, Priestly would not have been able to take the time out to write the book were it not for the supreme generosity of his friend Walpole. Walpole, knowing that Priestly would be too proud to accept a gift of a year's salary, although he was wealthy enough to give it, instead suggested they collaborate on a book. Priestly agreed, and on these terms, Walpole donated his share of the royalties as a gift so that The Good Companions could be written.



'The Good Companions' turned out to be the book that Priestly called 'the only one I could have written at the time'. He quite literally wrote himself out of misery, with this charming tale that breaks all the publishers' rules - much too long, multiple protagonists, long rambling plot, feel-good ending. Incidentally, Priestly's knowledge of the forgotten corners of England during the Great Depression of the 1930s, all to familiar in our current credit crisis, shines through.

I love it.

Thoroughly unflattering but an essential part of the day...

My tongue will tell the anger of my heart, or else my heart concealing it will break 
  William Shakespeare, Taming of the Shrew

 



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