I can't believe it's taken me so long to read the Diary. I've read parodies of it, and friends have told me how funny it is, but I took the enthusiasmI can't believe it's taken me so long to read the Diary. I've read parodies of it, and friends have told me how funny it is, but I took the enthusiasm for it with several grains of salt and as a result long missed out on a book that did literally make me laugh out loud. I got some very strange looks on a train trip as I snorted and guffawed. Delafield describes I life that neither I nor any of my ancestors ever experienced; she writes of money troubles while still having several servants and sending her two children to boarding school. But she writes so brilliantly of her domestic woes that she's a sympathetic protagonist even when her worry is finding a second maid. That's not an easy job. I can foresee that this is going to be a favourite book to return to when times in my life are difficult and I need an escape. It's perfect escapist reading....more
I borrowed my copy from my twelve-year-old niece, who also loved this book. French writes wonderful Australian historical fiction, with her deep loveI borrowed my copy from my twelve-year-old niece, who also loved this book. French writes wonderful Australian historical fiction, with her deep love of this country evident on every page. I felt, as I was reading this, that I was getting the 'other side' of the story that Mary Grant Bruce told in her Billabong books, favourite stories of my childhood. And I love a book in which women of the temperance and suffrage movements are presented as the heroines that they were. I wouldn't have a vote without them....more
**spoiler alert** Having read this book in a little under twenty-four hours I feel as if I've over-eaten. The Friendly Young Ladies has a lot of over-**spoiler alert** Having read this book in a little under twenty-four hours I feel as if I've over-eaten. The Friendly Young Ladies has a lot of over-wrought emotions for a book that was apparently meant to be a lighter response to the equally over-wrought The Well of Loneliness. And if The Friendly Young Ladies is meant to be a less despairing book than The Well, I'm not quite sure I can see it.
The characters of Elsie and Peter are humorous in their absolute inability to understand anything that goes on around them. I'm not sure whether the reticence with which they're treated by everyone is because Renault was writing in 1944, when some things were unsayable, or because a certain reticence was just characteristic of the English middle-class, but I did long for someone to speak to them with a bit of blunt honesty.
As for the lesbian relationship at the centre of the book, it's depressing. I understand that Renault did not see herself as 'lesbian' and was appalled by anything that approached a 'gay rights' movement. But I'm not convinced by her comparing sexual intercourse to mountain-climbing, and the idea that sometimes you just have to go on 'with someone you trust at the other end of the rope'. I'm horribly afraid that the central message of the book is that a lesbian just needs the love of a good man in order to become a real woman.
Renault's afterword to this edition, written in 1983, acknowledges that the ending didn't work and that the idea of Leo and Joe living happily ever after was ludicrous. But I wish Leo and Helen could have lived happily ever after which, some eighty-odd years later, would now be possible because of the gay rights movement that Renault despised.
I've given this four stars as a useful historical source. But I'm glad that 'congregated homosexuals wav[ed] banners' - even if Renault turned her back on them....more