In both novels, the characters suffer unease and uncertainty. – but there is nothing dramatic in these novels. How will the committee of the Baldwins’ new housing estate be formed? Was anything ever going to happen? I did so on a critic recommendation. Merenia ?
Joan Kyler February 16, 2017
I love Sherriff’s books, too. Mrs Stevens would far rather stay at home than go on their annual outing; the small boarding house they’ve stayed in ever since their marriage is increasingly dilapidated, and they don’t know how long they’ll continue to go. The only false moves in these novels come when the author forgets his strengths. I don’t usually like science fiction, but I loved The Hopkins Manuscript and will be surprised if you don’t like it, too. I don’t know if either of these novels would be published today. Sherriff in fairly quick succession – The Fortnight in September (1931) and Greengates (1936) – having never read anything by him before; they were the topic of a podcast I recorded. Related
7 comments on “The gentle joy of R.C. Sherriff”
Attila the Checkout February 15, 2017
I suggest you read “Stoner” by John Williams. Because the two novels I read offer probably the most unalloyed pleasure I’ve had in reading uncomplex prose in ages. There is something that seems unambitious about Sherriff’s writing – he doesn’t offer a multitude of perspectives or jump around in time; he doesn’t throw in something to make these storylines take a sudden turn for the dark. When we turn to the landlady trying to hide her increasingly poorness, or Mrs Stevens’ worrying about having left the window open, we are on safer ground. Try it. heavenali February 15, 2017
I totally adored The Fortnight in September and Greengates, and also The Hopkins Manuscript, the central character in that novel is very much Mr ordinary like the characters in those other novels, yet he is caught up in extraordinary events. His last days are described in a marvel of lyrical prose. CFisher February 15, 2017
I’m waiting for my copy of Greengates to arrive by post soon. kaggsysbookishramblings February 15, 2017
I think you would like The Hopkins Manuscript, Simon – I loved it, it’s one of my favourite Persephones! They simply unfold before us like a soothing pattern of ordinary life. Thank you, Persephone, for making some of these books available. They sooth because they are ordinary – but they are not twee. Share this:TwitterFacebookPinterestEmailPrintGoogleLike this:Like Loading… In Greengates, Mr and Mrs Baldwin decide to move to a new house when Mr Baldwin retires. But something kept me reading and by page 150 I realised I’d become fond of and anxious for and rooting for this terribly ordinary dull well-meaning teacher. If I were to teach a class in creative writing (and there is no earthly reason why I would), I’d set these novels as homework. Pingback: R.C. Both novels were published by Persephone, who have also published The Hopkins Manuscript, which is Sherriff in sci-fi mode – and I’m intrigued to find out what that mode is like. Sherriff over at Vulpes Libris – Stuck in a Book
Merenia February 16, 2017
Does Alexander McCall Smith achieve similar in his novels perhaps – depicting ordinary but dignified lives where the scale of the action is minute but no less fascinating. Trying to work out how he does it would be a rewarding exercise – or, having said that, perhaps a frustrating one, because I’ve come away with no idea, and plenty of admiration. In The Fortnight in September, Mr and Mrs Stevens and their three children go on holiday together. He really is the Average Man, and in this I felt he represented me and all my fellow humans in our routine ordinariness. The gentle joy of R.C. Sherriff
I recently read two novels by R.C. The plots of both are very simple. But something in Sherriff’s prose levels out anxieties. There are slight nuances – what will Mr Stevens do about a powerful colleague being at the resort? In The Fortnight in September, for instance, there a moment when Mrs Baldwin is feared drowned, and one where their son Dick goes through an altogether unconvincing and sudden change of heart about his career – both instances belong in a less naturalistic novel. From your review, I think I’m going like it a lot! It is the craft of novel-writing at its most deceptively simple – because they are somehow gripping without anything remotely tense taking place. They begin at the beginning and keep going, at a remarkably measured pace, until they reach the end. In Greengates, there are many pages of dissatisfaction in retirement – as Mr Baldwin tries to get accustomed to being at home all the time, and Mrs Baldwin similarly tries to adjust – before their brave new future is identified and secured. For the first 50 pages I kept wondering why I didn’t bin the book! There is something very calming about his books and writing style, something I don’t think any contemporary author has achieved.