In tomorrow’s Teaser Tuesday, I talk about some of the inspiration for The Ashford Affair, my 1920s book. That got me thinking, of course, about my favorite novels of the 1920s and 30s, since I spent a lot of time reading various writers of the period in order to get the tone right for Ashford. So….
If you like British writers of the 1920s and 30s, you’ll probably like:
— Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate. Mitford opens up 1930s society to our eyes, the elegance, the awkwardness, the loneliness, the political excesses, the divisions between the old county set, City moneymakers, and Oxford dons. Addie’s Aunt Vera in The Ashford Affair (you’ll be meeting her soon) owes a great deal to Mitford’s Lady Montdore.
These two are Mitford’s more serious works; she also wrote a number of blindingly funny farces (although not without their bitter tinge), including The Blessing, in which an Englishwoman marries a French aristocrat and has some difficulties with adaptation, and her send-up of the Bright Young Things, of whom she was one, in Highland Fling.
— It’s not surprising that Mitford was friends with Evelyn Waugh. His iconic Brideshead Revisited provides another look at that same world. In reading up for Ashford, though, I was more interested in his earlier works, such as Vile Bodies and Decline and Fall.
— Angela Thirkell’s Barsetshire novels, of which my favorites are August Folly, Wild Strawberries, and The Brandons. I tend to think of Thirkell as a cross between Mitford and Jane Austen. Like Austen, she deals not with the high nobility but with the country gentry, and she deals with their foibles incisively but indulgently.
— Stella Gibbons, Cold Comfort Farm. In which our London-bred heroine goes to live with relatives in the country and decisively sorts them out. She’s a bit of a 1930s Emma. Ridiculously clever and funny– and there’s a very good movie adaptation.
— Do I even need to mention Jeeves and Wooster?
— While working on Ashford, I re-read my entire collection of Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries from Whose Body? through to Thrones, Dominations. I had always read them before primarily as mysteries. (Okay, and also for the romance between Peter and Harriet.) This time around, I noticed just how deeply the books are rooted in their era, from the slang to Lord Peter’s shell shock. Lord Peter’s horrible sister-in-law is undoubtedly friends with Addie’s Aunt Vera.
— We tend to think of Georgette Heyer as mother of the Regency, but she, too, is a creature of the 20s and 30s and author of several contemporary mystery novels. Among other things, she wrote several modern romances: Helen, Instead of the Thorn, and Pastel. Unhappy with them, Heyer suppressed them during her lifetime. One can see why, but they are fascinating artifacts of their time.
Who are your favorite British writers of the 1920s and 30s?