If you’re familiar with Stuck-in-a-Book and my reading habits, you’ll know that it usually takes a while for books to work their way up the tbr pile. Understanding friends are very kind, and don’t complain, but Hayley (also known as Desperate Reader) will be pleased to finally read my thoughts on the book she very generously bestowed upon me: Love on the Supertax by Marghanita Laski. Truth be told, it might have been a loan originally, but Hayley sweetly said I could keep it. Crime does pay, it turns out.
Marghanita Laski is a name a lot of us know, and a lot more people encountered her through Persephone Books, who publish her novels The Village, Little Boy Lost, To Bed With Grand Music, and The Victorian Chaise-Longue. I’ve read the second and fourth of those, and haven’t quite been able to put my finger on what it is that defines Laski – those novels had little in common, and Love on the Supertax throws another tone into the mix, leaving me very satisfied, but rather confused.
Love on the Supertax (1944) is Laski’s first novel, and is a very amusing romp through the battle of the classes, and the eternal question of whether romance can flourish between people of different classes. This has been a theme in the English novel from Richardson’s Pamela onwards. But I don’t recall it being done in the way Laski does… in that Clarissa is desperate to leave her privileged background and become part of the socialist working-class. Yes, you’re thinking, we’ve been here before with Lady Chatterley, and still aren’t sure we want our wives and servants reading it. Well, fear not; there is no sense of Clarissa getting a thrill from dabbling below her class – instead, Sid feels he is wandering below his. For it is accepted by all that he would be marrying below himself, if uniting himself with posh Clarissa – not the other way around.
A fairly simple start for a satire, perhaps, but it works so well. The scene where Sid introduces Clarissa to his parents is hilarious – her wafer-thin slices of bread don’t go down well. Here’s another taster, to give you the idea:
“No,” said Sid Baker. “I think you’re a good deal too much influenced by superficial differences, and that you attach too much importance to heredity. Personally, I think environment is far too influential. I’d guarantee that if you took an aristocrat’s child at birth and placed it in a working-class home with all the environmental advantages that would entail, that child at twenty-one would be indistinguishable from me.”I loved Love on the Supertax, and it adds another string to Laski’s complex bow, for it is again so unlike the other Laski novels I’ve read. A quick read, it has charm and wit – and although I daresay it was motivated by a serious point, Laski has the writerly wisdom not to over-emphasise any social critique. Instead, this is a tongue-in-cheek and very amusing novella casting an unusual view on 1940s England. Thanks, Hayley!
Things to get Stuck into:
Economy Must Be Our Watchword – Joyce Dennys: I feel a bit guilty suggesting this, since it is more or less impossible to find, but Dennys’ tale of a selfish and unself-aware (or self-unaware??) woman trying to economise is so, so very hilarious.