If You Like….

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?


  1. Am7 on June 11, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    I have never read the Heyer novels you mention. I have heard of them, but never seen a copy in real life.
    Still I think of this as an era of great mysteries. Most of Heyer’s mysteries date to thirties, although Duplicate Death and Detection Unlimited are later say late 40’s and 50’s.)
    And how can anyone talk about mysteries without mentioning Christie? One of my favorite authors of all time. She wrote both some of her most quintessenial mysteries during the thirties such as Death on the Nile and Murder on the Orient Express. I also recommend the older movie made in the 70s’ of Express, but not the Masterpiece addition which ruined the story.
    The Pat series by L. M. Montgomery are some of my favorite books, and I have always wanted a chance to discuss them.

  2. Lauren on June 11, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    Am7, I’m re-reading “Rilla of Ingleside” right now (so wrenching!), but I’ve never read the Pat books– is that “The Storybook Girl”, or am I mixing it up?

  3. SusanN on June 11, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    Sooo many good books/series either written or set in the 20s and 30s. (Heck, even CS Forester wrote at least one mystery that I can think of set in the 20s.) Some that were actually written in that period:

    –Dahsiell Hammett—esp The Thin Man
    –Ngaio Marsh’s Inspector Alleyn series (earliest ones)
    –Earl Derr Biggers’s Charlie Chan series
    –Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe series (earliest ones)
    –GK Chesterton’s Father Brown (later ones)

    I’ve always thought period mysteries (ones that were actually written at the time represented) are a wonderful way to learn history and get a sense of daily life. Since the reader is looking for things that are out of the ordinary in order to solve the mystery, the setting and people’s behavior are usually presented in the most realistic way possible. I agree that Christie and Sayers (and maybe Stout) were geniuses in this regard.

  4. SusanN on June 11, 2012 at 6:38 pm

    Oops. Bad at reading directions, apparently, since I included American writers. 🙁 So, I’m only really adding Chesterton and Marsh (if you will count a NZ writer).

  5. Am7 on June 11, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    Hello Lauren
    So no the Pat books are not The Story Girl books. They two separate series each containing two books each. The Story Girl and its sequel The Golden Road were written around the time of Anne of Green Gables. The story starts when two brothers are dropped off to live with their cousins for a year or half or something while their father is away. The older brother is narrating as adult looking back at particularly fun time during his childhood. Sara Stanley, the Story Girl, is the oldest of the children and is coming of age. She is adventurous and ambitious. While hints are given about what happens to the kids when they grow up, they are still teenagers/children at the end.

    The Pat books are written during the thirties and have a much longer time frame. Pat of Silver Bush starts when Patricia “Pat” is five years old. Mistress Pat (meaning Pat is the mistress of the house) ends when she is in early thirties. The story starts slow but builds to darker story overall. Pat hates changes and has trouble adapting to growing up. I always how other Montgomery fans would react to this these series.

  6. SusanN on June 12, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    In my rush to post earlier, I totally forgot about Margery Allingham, Michael Innes, Josephine Tey–and probably several others. (But at least these 3 are British!)

    Very much looking forward to The Ashford Affair!

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