Archive for category furrowed middlebrow

Something A Little Different: Furrowed Middlebrow Books, August 2022

To get in a holiday mood you could do no better than play this Dean Street Press trailer for The Marble Staircase. Unlike most ‘Furrowed Middlebrow’ titles this is not a reissue, but a novel written by Elizabeth Fair c 1960, the typescript of which languished for 60 years in a black tin trunk until her literary heirs, inspired by the success of Dean Street Press’s reissues of her published novels, thought to mention its existence. Once read, there was no hesitation in adding it to the Furrowed Middlebrow list and I was delighted to be asked to contribute a foreword, building on those I have written for all Miss Fair’s other novels.

Elizabeth Fair, photographed by Angus McBean

The research was absorbing, allowing me to pick up clues from Elizabeth Fair’s diary, study in detail the topography of a Lancashire seaside town, linking that to the lives of her antecedents, while relishing the effect visits to Lake Como and Florence had on the life of the novel’s heroine. ‘Liberation of the mind’ is the theme, Italy the catalyst, a combination familiar to readers of E.M. Forster and Elizabeth von Arnim, but given an entirely individual rendition by Elizabeth Fair.

And here is the trailer for more Dean Street Press August largesse – 12 novels by ‘Susan Scarlett’, aka Noel Streatfeild. Again, I was delighted to be commissioned to write the foreword to these reissues, detailing how the author, now mainly remembered for her books for children, came to write these light novels that did so much to brighten the lives of her readers during the Second World War. The first, Clothes-Pegs, was published in 1939 and the last, Love in a Mist, in 1951, and, between them, allow us to enter worlds all well known to the author – those of fashion, concert parties, ballet, munitions (this novel has perhaps the best title, at least to those of a certain age – Murder While You Work), and even that of the film studio, all set against the background of ordinary lives in wartime and post-war England.

In the course of my research, I reread Angela Bull’s biography of Noel Streatfeild, as well as the author’s various autobiographies, and very much enjoyed mining digitized newspapers for obscure details of her early years, all grist to the mill. But a particular source of information was one that, as a sometime publishing house employee, I particularly value – the ledgers of ‘Susan Scarlett’s publisher, Hodder. These very heavy and unwieldy objects are held, most conveniently for me, in the London Metropolitan Archives and I would make a bold guess that it is many decades since anyone else has looked at the sales and profit and loss accounts for the novels of Susan Scarlett. It always gives me great pleasure to investigate prime records such as these that bring to life the facts behind the books.

‘Susan Scarlett’ during the Second World War

Dean Street Press have served a veritable ‘Furrowed Middlebrow’ feast this summer. Enjoy.

, , ,

Leave a comment

The ‘Furrowed Middlebrow’ Fiction: Recording of LSE Talk

Laura Jesson in Boots Booklovers’ Library – still from Brief Encounter

A recording of my talk on The ‘Furrowed Middlebrow’ Fiction: novels by and for women, 1920s to 1950s is now available here It was hosted by LSE Library and delivered via Zoom on 20 May.

I discussed some of the ‘middlebrow’ novels written by women that were available to borrow from public and circulating libraries in the 1920s to the 1950s, making special reference to those by novelists such as Margery Sharp, Celia Buckmaster, Stella Gibbons and Elizabeth Fair that have recently been republished by Dean Street Press under their ‘Furrowed Middlebrow’ imprint. I have written introductions to about 35 of the reissues.

The talk ties in with the current LSE Library online exhibition Making Modern Women: Women’s Magazines in Interwar Britain – which you can view here

You might also like to consult The Furrowed Middlebrow blog and The Middlebrow Network.

, , ,

Leave a comment

The ‘Furrowed Middlebrow’ Fiction: novels by and for women, 1920s to 1950s

Hosted by LSE Library, I’ll be giving a free online – Zoom – talk – The ‘Furrowed Middlebrow’ Fiction: novels by and for women, 1920s to 1950s – on Thursday 20 May, from 1-2pm.

I’ll be discussing some of the ‘middlebrow’ novels written by women that were available to borrow from public and circulating libraries in the 1920s to the 1950s. I’ll be making special reference to those by novelists such as Margery Sharp, Celia Buckmaster, Stella Gibbons and Elizabeth Fair that have recently been republished by Dean Street Press under their ‘Furrowed Middlebrow’ imprint. I have written introductions to about 35 of the reissues.

For full details of my talk – and how to register – see here.

The talk ties in with the current LSE Library online exhibition Making Modern Women: Women’s Magazines in Interwar Britain – which you can view here

You might also like to consult The Furrowed Middlebrow blog and The Middlebrow Network.

, ,

Leave a comment

Something A Little Different: Furrowed Middlebrow Books January 2021

It has been my Lockdown pleasure to write more forewords to novels reissued by Dean Street Press under the Furrowed Middlebrow imprint. The following 11 novels (6 by Margery Sharp and 5 by Stella Gibbons) were all released in January 2021. It was blissful escapism to read them all, delve into the lives of the authors, and demonstrate how elements in the novels related to Real Life.

When I began selling books by women, it was just these titles that I searched for in bookshops around the country. Isn’t it odd how life works out?

Here are the delicious Dean Street Press covers. Full details of all Furrowed Middlebrow titles can be found here.

, , , ,

Leave a comment

Something A Little Different: Furrowed Middlebrow Books: Summer 2020

It has been my pleasure to write forewords to a few of the novels reissued in August 2020 by Dean Street Press under their ‘Furrowed Middlebrow’ imprint. The theme this summer is ‘The Village’.

A major part of my commission is to uncover something of the lives of authors who, often very popular in their heyday, have subsequently disappeared beneath the waves of the rolling literary tide. One such is Celia Buckmaster – whose life has something of a novel quality. She would have made a good heroine.

Although the other two novelists I’ve ‘resurrected’ are both named ‘Dorothy’, their backgrounds were very different.  The novels of both were well-received by critics and well-loved by readers during the interwar period and well into the 1950s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Needless to say, reading these novels, all quite delightful, and pondering on the lives of their authors, provided a welcome escape from our national predicament. One is never quite ‘locked-down’ when the imagination can roam freely.

 

, , ,

2 Comments