Every year I do a series of Xmas & New Year entries on the blog, helped and encouraged by suggestions and recommendations from my lovely readers. You can see some of the pictures in this entry, and find (endless!) more Xmas books via the tags at the bottom of the page.
Angel Pavement by JB Priestley
There was just time for another dance, and then it was twelve o’clock. Everybody was silent for a moment. At the end of that moment, they all behaved like men and women who had been reprieved in the very shadow of the gallows, which is perhaps how they saw themselves.
Never before had Miss Matfield seen such a raising and clinking of glasses, so much backslapping, handshaking, embracing and kissing. Something-insky kissed the little girl in the fur-trimmed jacket and the secretary girl from the legation, and then kissed Miss Matfield’s hand fifteen times while the girl in the fur-trimmed coat, who had suddenly burst into tears, kissed her on the cheek. Mr. Golspie shook her by the hand, then gave her a big hug. It was at this moment that the only unpleasant event of the evening occurred. Once or twice before, Miss Matfield had had to escape from a tall bleary-eyed man, one of the very few Englishmen there, who was rather drunk and had been bent on dancing with her. Now he suddenly lurched into the middle of their little group, murmuring something about a happy New Year, and tried to embrace her. Mr Golspie, however, stepped forward smartly, and with one shove of his heavy shoulder sent the man reeling back.
commentary: Another seasonal entry from this marvellous book.
When Miss Matfield gets home from the New Year party:
She was tired, rather cold, and her head ached. There floated into her mind, as if borne there by white virginal sails, the comforting thought of aspirin and her hot-water bottle.Surely the fate of many New Year revellers, then and now.
I said before that this book was surprisingly modern – for example, there’s a young woman who is being competed for by her divorced parents - but there are also excellent details of the time:
A man who never wore a tie couldn’t possibly have a wife, unless of course he left home with a tie and then took it off.Mr Smeath is contrasting his own family with his wife’s:
When they met, it meant business. Four of them had not spoken to one another for ten years, all because of two cottage houses in Highbury. His wife’s lot would have sold the pair and eaten and drunk away the proceeds in less than a week.I liked this description, which immediately conjured up a picture:
she made her way to the tea room, which was not very full though it looked vaguely as if it had just been wrecked by a revolutionary mob.And the book contains one of the great disastrous dinner parties of all time.
There are so many books this would remind you of: Dickens, and Norman Collins’ London Belongs to Me, for the picture of London. And the young woman above lives in a club for singles, just like the Girls of Slender Means, although she’s also as modern as Bridget Jones.
Picture is one of the NYPL’s huge collection of New Year cards.