Loving by Henry Green
If Loving was not listed as number 89 on Modern Library’s list of greatest novels, I probably would never have even heard of Henry Green and I certainly would never have read the book. Henry Green did have a fleeting popularity in the 1940s and is still lauded for his creativity and originality amongst the literary establishment. He certainly had a flair for dialogue and he could certainly convey mood and environment without a lot of lengthy descriptions.
Loving reminded me of Downton Abbey. It is a story of servants at a large estate in Ireland and the wealthy landowner’s family. The big difference is that Loving takes place in 1945 and the master of the house is off serving time in the military while his mother manages the estate. The story revolves around the master’s mother- Mrs. Tennant, his wife Violet and children, along with a hand full of British servants… the cook, butler, a nanny, several house maids, and a lampman. And as with Downton Abbey, it appears that the extravagant, lavishly expensive life-style of the rich was definitely on the downward spiral. Capable servants were hard to find and the ones employed at the Tennant estate were mostly British citizens who took jobs abroad to avoid the draft and to get out of harms way… avoiding the inconvenience of air-raids and black-outs.
For the most part, Loving is a PG rated comedy. While the wealthy family goes about their normal business of living in luxury without a clue of what goes on in the servants quarters, all kinds of fiascos occur causing chaos in the household; love trysts, rumors, jealousy, and petty theft. The cook’s ill-bred eleven year old nephew comes to visit, and is allowed to socialize with the Tennant children. This leads to several pranks… most end with farcical outcomes.
One positive quality of Loving is that it realistically exemplifies the lifestyle of the rich and poor by illustrating trivial everyday occurrences. For example, the Tennants kept the fires burning in the parlors so the oil paintings would not get ruined by the dampness and humidity… but coal was so scarce that the servants quarters were left cold and drafty.
Unlike movies where you can visually see the humor, I seldom enjoy a comic plot in prose. Please take that into consideration when you note my rating. If you find British farce funny and entertaining, you may love Loving. Surely if you enjoyed Downton Abbey, you may want to give this book a try.
Rated 3 Stars July, 2016
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