Love Lessons, Joan Wyndham

I just want to excerpt massive passages of this book.  I almost didn’t get it out of the library, and when I did check it out, I almost didn’t read it.  It’s this woman’s diaries from World War II – she was living in London during the Blitz, which you’d think would cause her to, you know, write about the Blitz, but she’s seventeen and mainly unsupervised, and largely what she’s writing about is all the men she’s running around with.  I keep thinking “Oh, the author has done things so cleverly here, look at all the things she’s leaving unsaid,” but it’s diaries, not a novel.

(I am actually rather curious about seeing the manuscripts, because I’m assuming she edited them before publishing them, and I wonder what she changed.)

I’ve been sitting here for several minutes, watching Buffy in French (Xander’s being such a prat, but I feel nostalgic for the old school days and I really, really must buckle down and learn French, for heaven’s sake!) and trying to think of how to explain why Love Lessons was such a delight.  I think because Joan Wyndham reminds me of Jane Eyre – a comparison I doubt either of them would appreciate much.  It’s just the mix of a sense of humor and romanticism and down-to-earth practicality.  Cassandra in I Capture the Castle is much the same, which is why I always read that when I’ve finished Jane Eyre.

She’s fancying herself in love with this guy Rupert who deflowered her, but still she says this after his house gets bombed:

In fact it’s not surprising number 34 was hit; if any three things called for a bomb on them they were Leonard’s painting, Prudey’s novel and Rupert’s poems!  This is a fair specimen of his work:

The sun has broken loose from its moorings
And its face is splashed with oil from the spouting well
The halting footsteps of blind spiders feeling their way
Along a fractured thighbone –
A pile of discarded genitals rusting in an old iron basket –
Come to my party!

Another one begins: “Sweet steaming cesspools disturbed fitfully by bursting balls of stinking gas.”  Oh, dear.

And then sometimes she writes quite evocatively about London in the Blitz:

He left me and I ran back through nightmare streets, cold and dark and the guns going, past a time bomb barrier, running into ropes that held me back like spiders’ webs, and treading on broken glass that cracked horribly underfoot and made my heart jump.

Of course it is Daddy Issues City in this book, as I noticed rather early on, but eventually she brought it up herself, which again pleased me because although she still has issues galore, it’s always nice to see that people are at least verging on self-awareness.

The fact is, I prefer men to be slightly caddish and knock me around, and not to love me too much.  I like men who think they are God.

Rupert, of course, has all the self-assurance in the world – never looks foolish or put out, is completely at ease with the universe and thinks himself a lord of it.  He belongs to that class of person that is adored by shopkeepers and servants – “Dear master Rupert, such a fine lad he’s grown into!” – and Rupert smiles his gentle smile that means nothing, and strides on in glorious self-absorption, six feet of indolent golden manhood in a spotlessly white unbuttoned shirt, his trousers just a little too big for him.  There is a kind of aura about him that suggests green cricket fields and white flannels, though God knows he detests all sports and exercise.  He has that irresistible lazy charm that often goes with decadence and overbreeding – just like my father.

Uh-huh.

Anyway, now I long and long and long to get hold of her other books, but of course my library hasn’t got them, and Paperbackswap hasn’t, and I’m not buying any books until after the massive book bazaar in March, so I will just have to delay that particular gratification for a while yet.

P.S. Her father was discovered messing around with the Marchioness of Queensberry one Christmas.  Not Bosie’s mother, and not Percy’s wife, but the one after that.  Those Douglases.  Always in a scrape.

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5 thoughts on “Love Lessons, Joan Wyndham

  1. Pingback: Wrapping up 2009 « Jenny's Books

  2. This book sounds so delightful, I have ordered a copy – I love that last excerpt you’ve posted here, it gives me such a vivid picture of the indolent Rupert in his too large trousers.

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