Ian and Felicity by Denis Mackail

Ian and FelicityFans of Greenery Street – one of the loveliest of Persephone Book’s novels, about a young married couple being happy – may not know that there were a couple of sequels. One is a collection of short stories that I haven’t read, and I have an inkling that not all of them feature Ian and Felicity Foster; one of them features them SO much that they’re right there in the title. Ian and Felicity was published in 1932, seven years after Greenery Street. That doesn’t sound that long, but prolific Mr Mackail had published eight books (!!) in between – and so it is with a sense of nostalgia that we head back to the young couple to find out how they’re getting on down the line.

I should add at this point that Ian and Felicity is extremely difficult to track down, and the copy I read belongs to my friend Kirsty (who somehow managed to find a copy on ebay). I borrowed it approximately a zillion years ago, but finally got around to reading it a little while ago.

In America, the novel was called Peninsula Place – and that gives you a clue that the setting has changed a little. Ian and Felicity have outgrown their Greenery Street flat, and now have two children and a bigger town house a little way away from their first marital home and another step up the property ladder. They look back fondly (as the reader must) on that happy place – but this replacement is no less happy. Mackail (thank goodness!) has not started writing a gritty novel or a miserable one. Things continue in much the same tone – though with added parental anxieties, and the occasional wondering (often quickly quashed in slightly over the top internal self-reflection) whether life wasn’t all a bit simpler back in the Greenery Street days.

I loved reading Ian and Felicity. It was light and fun and an antidote to the unhappy marriages that populate so many novels – even those that are otherwise not unhappy books. My main qualm with it was the complete and utter lack of plot. I don’t need a lot to happen, but I would have liked more structure to the novel – it’s so episodic that it feels more like a series of notes, or loosely linked vignettes, than a novel. It wasn’t a big obstacle, but I don’t think it would have taken much to give this more of an overarching structure, and it would have lifted the novel into a whole new territory. (My only other qualm was how much Ian seems to loathe spending even a moment with his children, and how normal and admirable we’re supposed to think this; different times, of course, but this is not a model of every 1930s fictional father.)

But, as I say, it was still a lot of fun. Here’s a bit of the opening, to give you a taste:

“Dinner!” said Felicity, as she passed the open drawing-room door. “Come along, darling!”

“What’s that?” said her husband’s voice.

“Dinner, darling.”

“Supper, you mean,” said Ian’s voice; but he was coming. “Don’t exaggerate,” he said, actually appearing. “I’ve been in to look once, and I know just what we’ve got. Blancmange, again.”

“Well, darling, you know it’s Sunday.”

“As if I could forget it,” said Mr. Foster. But he smiled as he pulled down the front of his waistcoat, and he would certainly have pinched his wife’s arm with his other hand, if she hadn’t dodged him and gone through into the dining-room.

Harmless fun, isn’t it? Impossible to find a copy, but if you badger your local library, they might find one in the stacks. Or you might strike it lucky like Kirsty – keep an eye out on ebay!

 

25 thoughts on “Ian and Felicity by Denis Mackail

  • June 14, 2017 at 10:23 am
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    I doubt I’ll track this down here, so its nice to read all about it.

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    • June 15, 2017 at 11:39 pm
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      I still can’t quite believe Kirsty managed to find a copy!

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  • June 14, 2017 at 10:48 am
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    My library has LONDON LOVERS and other stories–is this the one you are yet to read?

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    • June 15, 2017 at 11:38 pm
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      No – it’s Tales From Greenery Street, I think.

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    • June 15, 2017 at 11:38 pm
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      It would be very hard not to enjoy this one!

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  • June 14, 2017 at 2:39 pm
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    Looking at your photo is a treat. The interesting black font against that vivid color! Let the searching begin …

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    • June 15, 2017 at 11:37 pm
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      It’s really interesting, isn’t it? I hadn’t noticed until I took the photo.

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  • June 14, 2017 at 6:20 pm
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    I just finished Greenery Street, of which I probably wouldn’t have heard except for your blog. Loved it! Hope to run across this one, or anything else by Mackail.

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    • June 15, 2017 at 11:37 pm
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      He was so prolific – good luck finding more! There are a handful that are fairly easily available.

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  • June 14, 2017 at 6:57 pm
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    Chronologically, this does seem to be after Tales from Greenery Street. Is that right?

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    • June 15, 2017 at 11:36 pm
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      I think so, yes!

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  • June 14, 2017 at 9:52 pm
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    I read that excerpt twice and I must say it really doesn’t sell this book to me one bit! However thank you as always for bringing to my attention books and authors I know nothing about.

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    • June 15, 2017 at 11:36 pm
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      :) You’re in luck – it’s impossible to find anyway!

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  • June 15, 2017 at 9:52 am
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    What a find! Naturally I had to look on Ebay, Amazon, and every online seller I could find — not a single copy except one dubious-looking paperback reprint. I did find copies on WorldCat in some American libraries under the name Peninsula Place, so I might be able to get one via Inter-Library Loan. I loved Greenery Street so it would be fun to revisit Ian and Felicity.

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    • June 15, 2017 at 11:36 pm
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      I searched and searched for it over the years, and then she swoops in without trying… *shakes fist* ;)

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    • June 16, 2017 at 9:38 am
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      Sold for £29.99 on EBAY UK on June 15th.

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  • June 15, 2017 at 10:19 am
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    What did friend Kirsty pay on EBAY?

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  • June 15, 2017 at 5:05 pm
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    Oh, how lovely. I’d no idea and, TBH, this isn’t one of the Persephone authors leaping on my list to be read “soonish”. (Only now!) I remember hearing Bonnie Burnard speak about her motivation for writing A Good House (which won a number of awards in Canada some time ago) and she said she felt there were an awful lot of books about marriages which were unhappy and did NOT work and she wanted to explore, on the page, one marriage that did endure and did work – and worked well, if not always easily. I’ve always felt A Good House would be one which Persephone would eventually publish: it’s just a nice (but not always happy, mind you) family story

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    • June 15, 2017 at 11:35 pm
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      It’s surprising how few happy marriages there are in novels – so few! And thanks for the mention of A Good House – I’ve never heard of book or author.

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  • June 15, 2017 at 6:37 pm
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    This book sold for £29..99 on EBAY today.Not my taste though.

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  • June 16, 2017 at 6:57 pm
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    Oh I shall certainly look out for this *rushes to ebay * it sounds rather lovely even though there is no plot.

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    • June 17, 2017 at 2:11 pm
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      Too late Ali–the only copy sold for £29.99 2 days ago.

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  • June 18, 2017 at 7:49 pm
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    I’ve got Tales from Greenery Street but that took having an alert on Abe Books for months to come up. Sigh.

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  • June 24, 2017 at 10:24 am
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    hanks for the great post. Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts.

    Reply

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