20th century brilliance.

This week we are exploring that wonderful thing – The 20th Century.

All of us on the blog have experienced the 20th century. I’d be very interested if anyone who hadn’t experienced the 20th century was reading this blog. (They’d either be VERY old or under 13…)

I’m going to use this week to explore some more of those books that escaped “favourite books” week. As most of you know, my favourite time period/era/historical timey-wimey is the Edwardian era, which started 1901, as did the 20th century. I’m not sure how many of my favourite books about this era were actually written then, but I’m sure some were.

I’m sure I could wax lyrical about every book that I own which was published before the year 2000. I spent about ten minutes staring at my many bookshelves and lifting books off them to see when they were published. I had so many options. I may do some honourable mentions at the end of this post.

photo (2)First choice is Robert Graves’ autobiography Goodbye To All That. This is no typical autobiography, first written in 1929 when Graves was 33. It is more an autobiography of his earlier years and, if you couldn’t tell by the cover, the First World War. It’s hard to tell which version of the book I actually have as the copyright information reads: ‘First published 1929. Revised edition, with new Prologue and Epilogue 1957. Published in Penguin 1960. Reprinted 1961, 1963, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1969, 1970, 1971 (twice), 1972, 1973 (twice), 1975, 1976, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982.’  I’d assume from this mine is from 1982. Who knows? I would love to know what was in the version from 1929 which Graves felt he had to take out. I have only read it once, it is only 280 something pages, but the writing is tiny. I do remember it being really very good though. Perhaps not interesting enough for everyone but certainly engrossing for me.

photoNo list of the 20th century would be complete without Agatha Christie. Not for me, anyway. according to goodreads, I have actually only read four Agatha Christie books though I do own seven. When you read on the first page of this book that she wrote 80 crime novels and short story collections, that puts it to shame, but I don’t think I will ever enjoy one of her books at much as I did this one. And Then There Were None was first published in 1939 under a different name (google it. She wouldn’t have got away with that title these days…) This book would not benefit from any kind of plot synopsis. The less you know, the better it gets. I couldn’t work it out and when it is all revealed I couldn’t believe how it had all come together. The best of the bunch.

photo (3)This next book was first published in 1946. It is one of the few books that I own that has any annotations made by me (another being an edition of Sassoon’s Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man). The things I love about this book are numerous. For a start the cover is amazing. I think the rest of the series, look very similar but are all different colours. Secondly, it’s a murder mystery, but it’s also a comedy at the same time. The thing I love about this book is the fact the characters seem aware that they are actually in a book. My favourite example of this is when one of the characters is knocked out and when he comes round this exchange happens:“Murder Stalks the University,” said Fen, “The Blood on the Mortarboard. Fen Strikes Back.”
“What’s that you’re saying?” Cadogan asked in a faint, rather gurgling voice.
“My dear fellow, are you all right? I was making up titles for Crispin.”
The characters also play games such as “Detestable Characters in Fiction” and “Unreadable Books.” I need to read more of this series to see if they’re all as good as this one.

Honourable mentions go to:War Horse by Michael Morpurgo published 1982
Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones published 1985
Nearly anything written by Enid Blyton, Evelyn Waugh or Christopher Isherwood.


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