Another Persephone title, but this one a bit humdrum compared to the tight packages of delight I’ve been devouring. “A bit uneven” as my least favorite critical phrase would attest, but I can think of nothing closer to say. Perhaps the discord is because this is written by a man? Parts are great, clever and witty, but then parts inflate and drag and the narrator becomes the Voice of God as if in a movie, telling Felicity that yes, Oxford was a rather silly place after all. The story is mainly about Greenery Street, a quiet London street with identical townhomes that newly marrieds move into and bust out of when they start having children and don’t fit anymore. The street itself is sentient, approving or disapproving of specific tenants.
We follow a couple, Felicity and Ian, who fall into the loving arms of Greenery Street and thus can proceed with their marriage, Felicity spending too much money and Ian not earning enough. The improvements made to the home cost them a pretty penny and they went into debt, Felicity sells her grandmother’s pearls to put a dent into it and Ian sells his father’s watch. They have servant troubles, of course, and Felicity’s sister almost runs off with another man except her husband. Ian and Felicity go away for the weekend and intend to dismiss their maid for drinking their whisky, via letter, while they’re gone. Ian’s letter “was defamatory, inaccurate, impolite, reckless, actionable, ungrammatical and vitriolic, all to the last possible degree. Occasionally a spurt of vicious humour gave an added tang to its philippic periods. It did not stop short of repetition, which, as the greatest masters have taught us, is one of the most powerful forms of emphasis. It employed both the alternative spellings of the word ‘whisky.'”