Uncommon Arrangements

I had a book token…

As book-buying excuses go, that one is pretty good. I don’t understand how people can have a book token for more than about a week – it’s a free book, how can I withstand that temptation? Luckily I found a book I really wanted (always tricky… ahem) and so bought Uncommon Arrangements : Seven portraits of married life in London literary circles 1910-1939 by Katie Roiphe. With a title like that, how could I not? It’s the right period for me, it’s domestic, and it is about these couples:

Katherine Mansfield & John Middleton Murray
Vanessa & Clive Bell
Elizabeth von Arnim & John Francis Russell
Ottoline & Philip Morrell
H.G. & Jane Wells
Vera Brittain & George Gordon Catlin
Radclyffe Hall & Una Troubridge

I’ve arranged those in order of my own interest – but I was pleased to say I’d heard of most of them, including at least one of every pairing. In many ways, this book seems catered just for me – I long to know more about so many of these couples. When a book is that obviously Simon, it would be churlish to leave it on the shelf. And I had a book token (did I mention that?)

‘Each chapter is structured around a crisis in a marriage and how it is resolved or not resolved. In some cases the crisis is as large as life-threatening illness, and in others it is as small as a slightly drunken conversation over dinner that threatens the balance of carefully submerged emotions.’ So Katie Roiphe writes in the introduction, which is the only bit I’ve read so far. The introduction does seem a little too touchy-feely, and lots of rhetorical questions (I was reminded of the stereotypical first-year undergraduate essay) but hopefully this will lessen as the main section of the book emerges. Anyway, it would be hard for Roiphe to write about these people without being interesting to me… at the same time, I want her to do them justice.

I’ll report back when I’m done…

8 thoughts on “Uncommon Arrangements

  • June 13, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    Looking forward to your report, Simon. They are an interesting bunch, hope it improves after the forward. A very good idea, not to be dealt with in a feeble manner.


  • June 14, 2008 at 2:16 am

    I’ve learned to hold off and hoard points at the trading sites I belong to. Sure, I can always find something (especially given the size of my wishlist!), but all it’ll do right now is sit around and wait for me.

    So that’s how I hold off when I’ve got a free book staring at me.

  • June 14, 2008 at 3:00 am

    That’s just the kind of book I like – literary circles in the first half of the 20th century. You’ve reminded me that I came across a description of that book and made note that it was one I wanted. Of course, the note is no where to be found – and I’d forgotten all about it. Thanks, Simon!

  • June 14, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    Greetings from sunny Somerset.

    I adamit, Simon, that when I read the review of this book earlier this week it struck me as the book that I ought to buy for your birthday – you’ve done a pre-emptive strike. I’ll have to think of something else.

  • June 14, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    I further admit that I did not spell check

  • June 14, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    I’ve seen this before and would really like to read it, so I await your review with interest.

  • June 19, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    This is one I’m going to have to buy…I wonder if it’s been published over here yet (with my luck probably not…).


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