Thursday, 3 April 2014

Retro Lit

I blame Karen at Cornflower Books for my current obsession with  70's novels. Karen is the arbiter of literary good taste and I thought that if she was reading them it was a respectable thing to do, practically academic research.

Before I knew what was happening I was immersed in the guilty pleasures of  'The Property of a Gentleman'  by Catherine Gaskin. There were ghostly dogs, goodies who were baddies, baddies who were goodies, rich men with no emotional intelligence, lost loves, unexpected deaths and I hadn't even got to the end of the first chapter. Bring it on, I thought, I am ready for Retro Lit.

I would like to make a few observations which I hope will help your own close reading:

1. Be prepared for sartorial shock

"the long skirt was of brilliant orange quilted cotton, and I wore it with a yellow high-necked sweater, and tied about the waist was a long black sash I had bought for a few pounds in [an] auction of Victorian costume."

2. Warning : secondary smoke may affect your reading

"I...smoked one after the other of Askew's cigarettes. A nurse came and gave us some tea... She stayed to arrange magazines on the table, and offered remarks about the weather, but no answers to the questions  I asked...Then Dr. Murray came back. I jumped to my feet...He gestured to me to sit again. "Got a cigarette, Robert? Thanks." I could have screamed with impatience as he lighted it..."

3. Alcohol consumption is not moderate.

"I thought of the brandy we had both drunk, and now the champagne. It hardly seemed to matter...We made a slight inclination to each other with our glasses..."

4. A world before Mary Berry

"There was onion soup with hot garlic bread wrapped in a towel, chicken in some kind of sauce that only a serious cook could make, the sort of pastry that one saw on the trolleys of the most expensive restaurants..."

5. The golden eagles are red herrings. Ignore them.

"When the word gets out that golden eagles are nesting there...there are enough stupid clots who'll actually want the eggs themselves."


Next stop "A Falcon for a Queen"

' What force had driven her to seek out a mysterious and embittered grandfather she had never known?


  1. I think you are making this up.

  2. I think you are making it up too.

  3. I find myself reading this in a posh accent....!
    I used to choose books by their cover, literally, in the library so I can say I may well have picked this up at one time. That sweater, those slacks, the to be a good read.

  4. Please don't be making them up, they sound fabulous! More please.

  5. I don't know, any book with a cover like that could quite easily contain all sorts of twaddle and nonsense!! xx

  6. I am delighted to confirm that these are all genuine extracts from 'The Property of a Gentleman'. I am flattered to think that anyone could believe I was capable of this level of parody.

  7. MrM of course is more of a traditionalist reading GA Henty - With Kitchener in the Soudan being one of my favourites along with In The Irish Brigade.

    Probably slightly dated ...

  8. I loved CG when I first read her books years ago & TPOAG has just been released as an ebook so I'm looking forward to reading it again. 1970s book covers are wonderfully awful though, aren't they?

  9. 1599 Geneva bible is still a good read and not too dated !

  10. Seriously, enjoying it?

  11. Recently read a few of the old Richard and Frances Lockridge mysteries, and was amazed at the amount of alcohol everyone consumed. Not to mention the cigarettes smoked. Makes you realize the influence of PC.


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