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Hot books/small group reads > Happy reads??

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message 1: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
Hi everyone,

Dawn's comments in the New Discoveries thread had me thinking, are there happy reads from our time period?? All I can come up with are tragedies! Anyone want to take a go at listing some books that have happy endings?

message 2: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb Interesting question Jennifer. Only one author readily springs to mind, of whom more below.

An era that was bookended by two World Wars is going to produce plenty of literature that reflects that pain, suffering and conflict.

The period before WW1, and between the world wars, was a period of huge change and turmoil, so again, contemporaneous literature is frequently going to reflect what was happening.

Anyway, all of this ignores P.G. Wodehouse, the greatest comedic writer of all time...

P.G. Wodehouse is the funniest writer of the past century. Wodehouse defies superlatives. He is, quite simply, the best comedic writer to ever put pen to paper. I am a confirmed Wodehousian and revel in the man’s comedic genius. I have read numerous books by the great man and all, to one degree or another, are a delight.

Dawn can rest easy - she, like the rest of us, has P.G. Wodehouse to chase those blues away.

message 3: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb Dawn, start with Thank You, Jeeves ....

Sublime, splendid, superb.…in short, PG perfection

I read Thank You, Jeeves for my book group and, once I had started, I realised this was the third time I’d read it. It was like meeting an old and valued friend. It is one of my favourites: sublime, splendid, superb…in short, PG perfection.

I chuckled, I laughed and I even guffawed. Upon finishing this wonderful book, I discovered that this is the first of the Jeeves and Wooster novels. Up until the publication of this novel, the characters had only appeared in short stories.

A rift between Jeeves and Wooster separates our two heroes, Jeeves being unable to stand Bertie’s latest craze - the Banjolele (who knew Banjos were known as Banjoleles?) and so tenders his resignation.

Lovelorn characters, a country house, buffoonery, and moronic misunderstandings are all present and correct. The happy ending even bought a tear to my eye.

As is so often the case with books written in the early 20th century, the modern reader may look askance at some of the racial epithets that were acceptable at the time however, and whilst I do not for one moment excuse it, sadly it was socially acceptable back in 1934. That important point aside, I say again this is PG perfection.

Suffice it to say that, if you don’t know why so many people worship at the comedic altar of PGW, this novel will reveal all.


message 4: by Miss M (new)

Miss M | 118 comments Even though there's often a sting in the tail to their humour, I think several of Evelyn Waugh, Nancy Mitford, EF Benson, and Saki's works are pretty light-hearted (though maybe not with a classic happy-end...)

message 5: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb ^ All good suggestions Miss M. Mitford and Benson are pretty happy with little by way of darkness or unpleasantness. Waugh on the other hand....

message 6: by Miss M (new)

Miss M | 118 comments Waugh is definitely more black humour.
Then there's Angela Thirkell.

message 7: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb I've also just realised that this month's non-fiction read - Laurie Lee's As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning - is awash with life reaffirming content. Only the start of the Spanish Civil War, towards the book's conclusion, intrudes on a fabulous read that is full of feel good content.

I am not sure Dawn has stated whether she plans to read it or not. I hope she does. She tends to only visit sporadically though, leave a lengthy missive, before disappearing back into the ether.

message 8: by Nicole (new)

Nicole | 22 comments Also, The Edwardians, Illyrian Spring, and everything by Angela Thirkell.

A little later you also get Elizabeth Taylor and Angus Wilson, though both have a sharp streak.

message 9: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb Yep, Thirkell is very light and frothy and enjoyable. A great suggestion. I don't know those other books Nicole but will take your word for it.

message 10: by Miss M (new)

Miss M | 118 comments I think some of Anthony Powell's early books like What's Become of Waring are meant to be funny.

message 11: by Nigeyb (last edited Jun 20, 2016 09:15AM) (new)

Nigeyb ^ I'll let you know. I have one of them on my shelf.

I was perusing the cover to Antic Hay by Aldous Huxley earlier. We are almost certainly going to reading Antic Hay for our August 2016 group read. Anyway, the cover suggests it is "wickedly funny and deliciously barbed" which augers well for a 'happy read'. Perhaps Dawn could read Antic Hay to lift her spirits and raise a chuckle or three?

message 12: by Jennifer W (last edited Jun 20, 2016 09:44AM) (new)

Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
Nigeyb wrote: "Interesting question Jennifer.

An era that was bookended by two World Wars is going to produce plenty of literature that reflects that pain, suffering and conflict.

The period before WW1, and between the world wars, was a period of huge change and turmoil, so again, contemporaneous literature is frequently going to reflect what was happening. "

Oh, I absolutely agree! It doesn't surprise me in the least that there's so much conflict, if not outright despair, in the literature that we read from these decades, and even those works which were inspired by these decades.

I have hopes for Antic Hay, as well. In fact, that's why I nominated it. I like to try to balance intense reads with lighter ones.

message 13: by Connie (new)

Connie G (connie_g) | 162 comments The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett is a humorous book.

For people who like short stories, James Thurber, Mark Twain, and O. Henry have written some lighthearted stories.

message 14: by Lynaia (new)

Lynaia | 153 comments "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day" is also a light uplifting book from our time period. One of my favorites when I want a pick me up.

message 15: by Miss M (new)

Miss M | 118 comments That's a good one, Lynaia!
Also, Compton Mackenzie, EM Delafield (at least, the Diaries), Beverley Nichols, some Elizabeth von Arnim

message 16: by Dawn (new)

Dawn (goodreadscomdawn_irena) You are all so kind and considerate ! I am so sorry that you feel I come in and disrupt and then never participate in reading . Nigeyb, I am behind a bit in my reading as late but I am reading the pastoral novel Laura Lee's As I walked Out One Midsummer Morning . I find it very nice so far . I did want to read this especially because I did not know much about the Spanish Civil War .

I know I am misunderstood by what I said the other day . We have had a variety . I really am sorry , I was just in a frightfully horrible mood and I took it out on our nominations list . Our last read was rather depressing about Christopher Isherwood . It had some funny parts but it was a sad subject of a type of inner loneliness of not fitting in somehow all the way through. I really feel the emotional struggles of characters in books such as this. I am very sensitive to the sadly misunderstood and lonely. Yet , at the same time I am drawn to read about them and long for some sort of positive outcome or resolution for the characters.

The wars did bring about sad stories but there were stories of people that were brought together and held together stronger . There were heroic stories and romantic liaisons , and friendships that were made and explained some bonds made in wartime that could never be made in other times. There were stories of triumph and spirit . There were people who influenced and inspired our soldiers and people to keep going . This are not actually funny stories I am talking about but they are stories of inspiration and positivity. These are stories written to say we did the best we could during this time to live our lives and like a deathly illness sometimes we did have breaks with laughter or we would never had made it through this time.

We are talking about a time when we had a hard fighting war . Then we had times of anger and protest along with massive crazy partying . Finally , we continued with more war and more anger and sadness and more partying that was really based on depression at this point.

People survived ! How ? Through faith, hard work, love, and laughter at times .
That is what we know. Celebrate the art and what kept our people going a bit .
Of course there will be bad with the good , but there were magnificent people and stories written .

Thank you all so much for considering me . You have been wonderful to do so. I do not keep my personal feelings to myself and many people are not used to such openness and honesty. I am not only a reader but a writer . I have kept personal journals since I was given a little pink Diary with a lock and key at the age of 6 ! HA!!! I have boxes of notebooks from years of writing. I thought writing would keep me from being so expressive with others but it seems I just articulate my feelings more. I realize this makes some people uncomfortable . I guess I am an open book ! HA! For better or worse , I hope I have not offended anyone . My feelings are only feelings and opinions and they are not to be forced upon anyone . I do not ever expect that AT ALL EVER!

Again , please forgive me for my writing about my upset feelings over things beyond my control in the state of our world . You all had a dear lady that was murdered horrifically the other day in England by a Neo-Nazi that is so terrible too. I am terrible sorry for your country's loss. Of all things will still are fighting Hitler !!!

You know I have never read Mein Kamph and I have never read Karl Marx or Siegmond Freud . I really loved C.J. Jung . I have read several of his books . Sometimes when studying a literary period it helps to not only include the history of events but those people who are popular in society that help formed our culture in all areas. Politicians, businessmen, philosophers, artists, scientists, doctors , experimenters , and discoverers .

Thank you all . I can't express how wonderfully considerate you all have been .
Sincerely ,
Sorry to have caused such an upset. If you do not want me in the group , I understand .

message 17: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
Oh Dawn, I hope you don't feel targeted! That was not my intention! I don't consider you to have "caused an upset" at all. I understood completely what you were talking about in the other thread, and the more I contemplated it, the more I realized you were right: we don't read much positivity around here! Which, given what was going on in the years 1900-1945, is reasonable to think writers would be writing about hard times. I, for the life of me, couldn't think of a happy or positive book to steer you towards, but I knew the collective brainpower of this group would find something! That's all I was hoping to achieve, a place for you, me, and anyone else in this group to find some happy books in case we need them.

Be well!

message 18: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
And I don't know if you can call a murder mystery "happy" per se, but I was tickled the whole way through Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie.

message 19: by Lynaia (new)

Lynaia | 153 comments Dawn wrote: "You are all so kind and considerate ! I am so sorry that you feel I come in and disrupt and then never participate in reading . Nigeyb, I am behind a bit in my reading as late but I am reading the ..."

I don't believe you caused upset at all. I agree with Jennifer that it is good to balance intense reads with something light but sometimes it can be hard to think of the light reads when you've been reading a lot of intense stuff. And this period had a lot of intense books. Hope we've all been of help coming up with some light reads and definitely don't leave the group!

P.S. Christopher Morley also wrote some light stuff. His In the Sweet Dry and Dry is completely absurd.

message 20: by Miss M (new)

Miss M | 118 comments I think it's a great idea for a thread/discussion...nice to be reminded of old favorites and maybe see something new. I've been meaning to read Illyrian Spring for a long time--this could be the inspiration!
Dawn, a couple of the groups I belong to have threads for 'comfort reads.' I think a lot of us like to switch concentration sometimes from the more intense stuff. And I'm like you, I love to read more about individuals of a time period, not just straight history.

message 21: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1526 comments A while back we read the Lucia& Mapp stories (or is it Mapp & Lucia? ). And those are pretty light. Wodehouse is too for most people.

And most of the writers connected with the Algonquin Round Table were humorists. It is true that Dorothy Parker was more tragedy than light, but it was a dark humor that she used. But every couple of years I re-read my one James Thurber book, My Life and Hard Times. And I find it hilarious every time.

message 22: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb You are very welcome here Dawn, and this thread is to help you to find some books that might offer escape from the bad news you highlighted, and which dominates so much of the news agenda

message 23: by Val (new)

Val You might like Cold Comfort Farm Dawn. I think the group has read it, but before I joined.
The Good Companions is not cheerful all the way through, but has a happy ending for everyone.
Most of H.E. Bates books have a light touch, although some are a bit later than our timeframe.
Waugh can be hilarious, but I'm not so sure about happy.

message 24: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb Cold Comfort Farm is Mrs Nigeyb's favourite book of all time

message 25: by CQM (new)

CQM I picked up a copy of this in a second hand bookshop the other day and although I haven't yet started it I see from various reviews that it's supposedly highly amusing.

message 26: by Nigeyb (last edited Jun 21, 2016 03:04AM) (new)

Nigeyb Never heard of England, Their England by A.G. Macdonell but I like the description, which, probably wrongly, is evoking a Fraser from Dad's Army vibe (if you'll permit me a small digression here, at the moment I am enjoying Dad's Army more than ever, when I catch the Saturday evening BBC2 reruns. Absolutely wonderful). Right here's what I found on Wikipedia..

One of a genre at the time, the novel examines the changing nature of English society during the interwar period. The style and subject matter recall the works of Evelyn Waugh, Macdonell's contemporary, and earlier writers such as P. G. Wodehouse and Jerome K. Jerome. It is also known for its description of traditional village cricket. The novel is purported to be a roman à clef. The novel won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction in 1933. The title alludes to the refrain "England, My England" of the poem "Pro Rege Nostro" by William Ernest Henley.

And this review by Steve Benner on Amazon UK makes it sound flipping wonderful....

Although born in India (in 1895), Archibald Gordon Macdonell always regarded himself first and foremost as a Scot. Invalided out of the army during the First World War, he made an early living writing revue articles - principally dramatic criticism - for the London Mercury, before finally making a name for himself as the author of this satirical examination of the character and nature of the English from the viewpoint of a stranger to their land.

"England, Their England" is set in an England of the 1920s. In almost autobiographical fashion, it chronicles the adventures of a young man, Donald Cameron, who is forced, under the terms of his father's will, to live his life south of the border amongst the 'alien and strange' English, rather than in his native Scotland. Whilst trying to make his way in London by means of various newspaper jobs, a chance encounter with a Welshman lands him with a commission to write a book about the English, as viewed through the eyes of a foreigner. Donald thus sets off on a quest to discover the true character of this alien land in which he finds himself forced to live: a Post (Great) War England of toffs and wags and provincial yokels, of gay young things, and of officers' and gentlemen's clubs; of weekend parties in the country (amidst the last dying embers of an earlier world).

In his search for what it is that epitomises 'Englishness', Donald observes at close quarters the English engaging in numerous of their staple national pastimes: village cricket (probably the best known chapter of the book); walking the links; rugby football; fox hunting; boozing; international diplomacy and domestic politics. The book also contains an account of Donald's experience of what in those days was but a fledgling upstart clamouring for a place in English hearts and minds - an association football (soccer) match - as well as taking passing swipes at English inter-war literary and dramatic endeavours.

This book's early chapters are outrageously hilarious, bordering on farce on occasions, although the mood turns more towards pathos in the later stages, as Donald discovers (and the author portrays the virtues of) the more down-to-earth, homespun existence of the newly emerging middle and working classes, although even here the author finds plenty of scope for caricature. The book turns briefly to total farce for its finale, in which all of the characters come together in one last ludicrous act, before winding up with a peaceful (and rather sugary) coda on the history-steeped lawns of Winchester.

The inter-war years were an odd period throughout the whole of Europe but perhaps nowhere more so than in Britain, and especially England, with the gradual collapse of its privileged classes - long in decline but by then all but wiped out in the carnage of the Great War (or else facing financial ruin in the depressions that followed). It is no real surprise that satirical novels were virtually the standard form of literary expression of those years; A G Macdonell's approach is wittier and less gloomy (yet more acerbic) than most of that time, especially the better known ones such as the writings of Evelyn Waugh (who early novels are more or less contemporaneous with "England, Their England").

Despite the passing of the years, this book acts as a perfect window onto its times; a window, nevertheless, fitted with distorting glass, intended to point up the ludicrous and the grotesque, encouraging no-one to mourn the passing of outmoded ways, or, indeed, the sad decline of a once great imperial power. And yet, speaking with a wit and humour that transmits itself as clearly and articulately today as when it was written, this book suggests that there is - and always will be - something of value at the heart of this indomitable (but fundamentally crazy) nation.

Some of the jokes may have lost much of their meaning in the seventy years since this book was written (especially for younger readers unaware of the details of the history of those times) but ironically, many of the anachronisms so mockingly (and yet affectionately) painted in A G Macdonell's treasurable prose remain recognisably present in the England of today. "England, Their England" remains a classic book, and a great testimony to an observant and witty man whose untimely death in 1941 robbed the English-speaking world of a great mind and a fine author.

Sold CQM2! You've done it again.

message 27: by Lynaia (new)

Lynaia | 153 comments Definitely looks interesting. I love a little absurdity in my reading!

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