Every reader has a guilty secret – the author they’re slightly embarrassed to admit they love.
Mine is Georgette Heyer.
She’s generally considered a bit out-of-fashion – at least, among many of my bibliophile friends.
Lots of them admit: ‘Oh, I read her when I was a teenager…’
The implication being: ‘And I wouldn’t touch her with a bargepole now I’m grown-up and know better.’
Which is a shame – it’s comforting sometimes to bury one’s nose in an old favourite.
In fact, I’ve recently been renewing my acquaintance with a host of much-loved blasts from my reading past.
The nostalgia-fest started with the release of the latest film version of Arthur Ransome’s 1930s children’s classic Swallows and Amazons.
I first discovered the Walkers and Blacketts as an adult when Missee Lee, tenth in the series, featured in the Radio Four Story Time slot.
Absolutely gripping – so I bought the paperback and devoured it before the final episode of the radio serial aired.
And then read the rest of Ransome’s adventures.
So, the new film tempted me to back to the book.
And, then I returned to Noel Streatfieild – Ballet Shoes and The Painted Garden being particular favourites.
Followed by Agatha Christie.
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd thrills every time.
4.50 from Paddington is next.
And, I’m also contemplating a dip into the Susan books by Jane Shaw.
Maybe some Nevil Shute too?
It’s a while since I read A Town like Alice and The Chequer Board.
And Jane Austen. John Buchan. The Brontes.
Of course, the problem with all these very British, very un-21st century authors is that they sometimes reflect some of the now politically incorrect social mores and prejudices of the times in which they were written – which can sometimes make for uncomfortable reading.
Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, for instance, is a bit squirm-inducing when she observes towards the end of the novel that ‘a sound English education’ has corrected ‘the French defects’ of Rochester’s ward, Adele.
Ditto: the teenage Nancy Blackett who rudely tells the village policeman how to do his job.
And, worse, the anti-Semitic portrayal of a moneylender in Heyer’s The Grand Sophy, which is the subject of a heated discussion still running on the Goodreads website.
But such anachronisms of taste and opinion are almost inevitable.
What’s the alternative?
Clear every book written more than a dozen-or-so years ago off the shelves?
That would be sad.
No: I respect the Goodreads debaters who find Heyer’s novels tainted.
But, sometimes, as in life, one has to accept that other people – especially those from a different generation – don’t always hold views that one finds nice.
So, I’ll carry on reading Heyer et al, whose views I sometimes don’t like, because most of the time I find them good company.
Just as, post-Brexit and post-President elect Trump, I’m staying friends with the people who didn’t cast their votes the way I thought they should.
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Jessica Norrie said:
I had the same problem returning to childhood favourites Babar (more with the illustrations than the text) and also the Narnia books – all those golden haired blue eyed goodies and the shifty dark skinned men with beards and curved scimitars – a shame as it’s a wonderful series..
Sue Featherstone said:
I was never into Babar but I completely agree with you about the Narnia books. In particular, I was always a bit miffed about the way Susan was portrayed as such a glump!