I mentioned briefly, in that Booking Through Thursday quiz, that I’d bought Nicola Humble’s The Feminine Middlebrow Novel 1920s to 1950s but I couldn’t just leave it at that, could I? I’ll warn you now, it’s not cheap (paperback about £28, hardback much more) so get onto your local library… because for those whose reading tastes are most aligned with mine, or at least overlap significantly, that book title must sound like manna from Heaven – and, figuratively, it is. Literally, it’s just a book title… Ahem.
I read Humble’s book when writing my thesis on the topic as an undergraduate, and got rather peeved because she’d said all sorts of things I was hoping were original to me – but don’t hold that against her. She writes about all sorts of authors close to the Stuck-in-a-Book heart: EF Benson, Elizabeth Bowen, Agatha Christie, Ivy Compton-Burnett, EM Delafield, Monica Dickens, Rachel Ferguson, Stella Gibbons, Rosamund Lehmann, Rose Macaulay, Nancy Mitford, Dodie Smith, Elizabeth Taylor, Angela Thirkell, Virginia Woolf. What a list. Even if you haven’t read all those authors (I’ll confess, there are two listed whom I’ve not read), you’ll probably still be interested in their spheres and their ethos. Do see what Danielle had to say about it on her blog.
The chapter headings are:
1. ‘Books Do Furnish A Room’: Readers and Reading
2. ‘Not Our Sort’: The Re-Formation of Middle-Class Identities
3. Imagining the Home
4. The Eccentric Family
5. A Crisis of Gender?
All such fascinating topics – and Humble writes with a style and verve which makes everything completely accessible without ‘dumbing down’. All rather middlebrow, now I come to think of it. EM Delafield would be proud to be included, and I can think of no higher, nor more apposite, praise than that.