British Author Challenge May 2023: Jan Morris & R.F. Delderfield

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British Author Challenge May 2023: Jan Morris & R.F. Delderfield

Editado: Abr 30, 2023, 7:23 pm

Jan Morris was born James Humphry Morris on October 2, 1926 in Somerset. She attended Christ Church, Oxford and served as an intelligence officer during World War II.

After the war Morris turned to journalism, and was the first to report Edmund Hillary's and Tenzing Norgay's success on Mt. Everest. Morris would go on to write a number of books in multiple genres, including travel, history, and memoir.

Morris married Elizabeth Tuckniss in 1949, with whom she shared five children. She began transitioning to life as a woman in 1964, a process which she documented in Conundrum. Morris died on November 20, 2020, survived by her wife and their four surviving children.

Selected works
Pax Britannica Trilogy
In My Mind's Eye: A Thought Diary
Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere
Destinations: Essays from Rolling Stone
The Great Port: A Passage through New York
The Upstairs Donkey, and Other Stolen Stories
Ciao, Carpaccio!: An Infatuation
Coronation Everest
The Matter of Wales: Epic Views of a Small Country
Coast to Coast

Editado: Abr 30, 2023, 7:19 pm

Ronald Frederick Delderfield was born on February 12, 1912 in London. He attended several schools as a child which would later provide fodder for his writing.

Delderfield joined the staff of the Exmouth Chronicle chronicle in 1929, and eventually became editor of the paper. His first play was produced in 1936 and his first novel was published in 1949. Several of his novels and plays have been adapted for film and television.

R. F. Delderfield died of lung cancer on June 24, 1972.

Selected works
To Serve Them All My Days
Swann Family Saga
A Horseman Riding By series
The Adventures of Ben Gunn
Stop at a Winner
Seven Men of Gascony
Too Few for Drums
Farewell the Tranquil Mind
Imperial Sunset: Fall of Napoleon 1813-14
Come Home, Charlie, and Face Them
Tales Out of School

Abr 30, 2023, 7:28 pm

I don't have anything unread on the shelves by Jan Morris, Amanda but I have several by Delderfield and will read something of his in May.

Maio 1, 2023, 12:07 am

Maio 1, 2023, 8:55 pm

>4 kac522: I just read that, wonderful book!

Maio 1, 2023, 8:59 pm

I'll be starting with Morris's Hav.

Editado: Maio 1, 2023, 9:20 pm

A Matter of Wales delivers an unbeatable Five Star case for "Free Cymry!"

Editado: Maio 8, 2023, 5:41 pm
Of more relevance to us than Morris’s success or failure as a parent, of course, is the fact that the author of 55 books, mostly in the travel genre, seems to have been a bit of a hack, spending minimal time on the ground, recycling earlier material, using phrases like “I like to think..” as a substitute for serious research and fact-checking. Early Pax Britannica trilogy is entertaining but superficial and jingoistic. Not a choice for anyone trying to get a handle on the impact of colonialism.

Maio 14, 2023, 10:17 pm

Soooo you know this how?

Maio 15, 2023, 1:19 am

>9 cindydavid4: Have you read the linked articles? Plenty of other journalists/critics out there expressing a similar judgement.

Maio 19, 2023, 12:14 pm

I read Hong Kong by Jan Morris. It was mostly history and culture. Not the best, so so, average at best.

Editado: Maio 24, 2023, 2:25 am

If you're familiar with the British School system in the early 20th century, I could use your help!

I've started reading To Serve Them All My Days by R. F. Delderfield. Being unfamiliar with the British school system circa 1918, I could use some help in understanding the various levels at David's school.

The book mentions Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Forms. And some of these have "Upper", "Middle" and "Lower."

Sixth form are clearly defined as those aged 17 and older. So far, so good.

Second form are the newest away from home (therefore, youngest??), but their ages are not given. This is where I need help: I'm not clear on the ages of the boys in Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Forms.

What do the distinctions of upper, middle and lower mean within each Form--is it a division by age or by ability?

He mentions "Classical Fifth" Form--what is this?

Student Bickford at age 14 is in "Remove". What is this, and why?

Sometimes the collective term of "juniors" is used--which forms would be "juniors"?

Any help or pointers to external explanatory sources appreciated.

Maio 24, 2023, 9:06 pm

>12 kac522: I didn't know either, so I just kept reading.

I'll watch for input from others.

Editado: Maio 24, 2023, 10:41 pm

>13 fuzzi: I haven't stopped reading; I am asking the question to better understand the age groups of the students, particularly when he talks about what they're learning or how they're acting.

>14 booksaplenty1949: Thanks much, that was helpful. My searching just kept coming up with the classifications since WWII and then as it is today, which wasn't what I wanted, since it's clear the education system has changed quite a bit since WWI.

One thing is clear: except for 6th Form, the lower levels varied by school or system. This article did make the upper & lower terms clearer--so if a Form includes ages 11 and 12, then 11 is Lower and 12 is Upper (I think).

"Fourth Form", etc., still are rather vague, and probably school-specific. The only gauge I have from the book is that 6th form are pre-university level/pre-draft age (essentially) and 2nd Form are the youngest (at this school in the book), but I'm still not sure _how_ young. But I think I'll go with age 11 as the starting age, since from the article it sounds like these types of schools generally had students from ages 11-18. And I'll just sort of guess from there.

Sometimes it's easier to read much older classics (like the Victorians), because at least there might be footnotes that explain to us modern folk how certain day-to-day things would be different "way back then." I guess post-WWI is supposed to be part of general knowledge, even though now it's over 100 years in the past.

Editado: Maio 25, 2023, 1:21 am

>13 fuzzi: >14 booksaplenty1949: >15 kac522: I don't know where one could find this: R. F. Delderfield's novels as cultural history: A reader's companion and even if found it doesn't look exactly like what's needed.

I remember devouring R. F. Delderfield's novels, probably in the 70s and only giving a passing thought to the strangeness of the level system. Ah, it must have been in the 80's following the BBC series...

Editado: Maio 25, 2023, 1:52 am

>16 quondame: Thank you for this!--it's actually in WorldCat and there are copies available at academic libraries. I'm going to see if my library will do an ILL. Even if it doesn't answer these questions, it may shed light on his work as a whole.

ETA: Just put in an online ILL order. There's a copy at a university library in my state, so a good chance it will come through.

ETA2: I recognize the publisher, Peter Lang. I think this group publishes Ph.D. theses; I read one published by them about the works of Margaret Oliphant:

Maio 25, 2023, 2:47 am

>16 quondame: This link in the previous article is more specific about ages. Hard to imagine Delderfield as the subject of a dissertation but of course popular fiction is often a helpful guide to understanding novels of the first rank, because in popular fiction the assumptions about society and about fictional form are more obvious. They are still there in more seriously “artistic” works, but part of a more complex agenda.

Maio 25, 2023, 2:52 am

>16 quondame: This link in the previous article is more specific about ages. Hard to imagine Delderfield as the subject of a dissertation but of course popular fiction is often a helpful guide to understanding novels of the first rank, because in popular fiction the assumptions about society and about fictional form are more obvious. They are still there in more seriously “artistic” works, but part of a more complex agenda.

Maio 25, 2023, 11:56 am

>18 booksaplenty1949: Thanks, that chart looks like what is in practice today; if nothing else, it is a general guideline of equating what's familiar to me (American) and gives me a guideline. It also helps me understand the levels for my own grandchildren who are in school in the U.K. now.

Maio 25, 2023, 7:30 pm

>19 booksaplenty1949: That is so much more clear. Though I like the bit about benches in the other one.

Editado: Maio 28, 2023, 7:45 pm

Scenes from Havian Life by Jan Morris

These dispatches from a fictional country didn't really work for me. If you're going to go to the trouble of making up a country, why make it sound like a vaguely Mediterranean country without a really imaginative culture or history?

This is actually a selection from a longer work I couldn't get my hands on, so I'm willing to concede that the full work might be better.

The Adventures of Ben Gunn by R. F. Delderfield

Delderfield's imagined backstory for Treasure Island's Ben Gunn didn't do much for me. Gunn is annoyingly servile, Silver is a little too close to truly evil, and the moralizing at the end had me rolling my eyes. I'll stick to the original tale, thank you.

Maio 29, 2023, 3:10 pm

>22 amanda4242: Since Wales is a real country, you might well enjoy Jan Morris with this one.

Maio 29, 2023, 3:57 pm

>23 m.belljackson: I'm not really big on travel writing. I chose Hav thinking the imaginative aspect would appeal to me, but it did not.

Maio 29, 2023, 5:16 pm

Maio 31, 2023, 5:57 pm

My progress in To Serve Them All My Days has slowed at the end of the month, but I should have it finished in a few days. It started strong, but it's feeling a tad repetitive at page 450. I don't think I need all 622 pages to get the idea, but I'll muddle through to the end.

Editado: Jun 2, 2023, 2:15 am

I finished To Serve Them All My Days by R. F. Delderfield (1972), which was one of the last novels published during Delderfield's lifetime. It tells the story of David Powlett-Jones, a Welsh miner's son, who begins his teaching of history at a rural public school in Devon shortly after being released from a shell-shock ward in 1918. The book follows him through his years of teaching, as he slowly heals and makes his way from inexperienced teacher to respected teacher to headmaster of the school. Throughout the book, Delderfield has David (aka "Pow-Wow"-everyone has a nickname in this book) comment on the Great War, British politics, and British life in general. The book ends in the midst of war in 1940.

I really wanted to love this book, and at first I felt swept up by the story. But after about 300 pages, it felt somewhat the same and just seemed to go on and on and on. There were highs and lows; marriages and children; new boys at the school; difficult colleagues and bosses. There is a lot of "Old Boy" lingo that completely flew over my head. The last 50 pages is essentially a listing of the various important events during Britain's entry into WWII, where Delderfield weaves in some of the more prominent prior students of the last 550 pages into service in the war. And the last few pages has a stunning revelation, which felt contrived (to me) to the point of being irritating.

I think I might have liked it better if Delderfield had broken the 600+ pages into 2 or 3 books, with real story arcs to each. I might have enjoyed the first book, and then after a break, moved on to the next. But all in one go became a chore for me, sorry to say. I think if I had grown up in this era in Britain, or had listened to my parents talk about it, the book might have had more meaning for me.

Jun 2, 2023, 3:25 am

>27 kac522: I felt this went on too long when I read it - several years ago, now - and I see that it is also published in two volumes subtitled 'Late Spring' and 'The Headmaster', so we are probably not the only two feeling this way!

Jun 2, 2023, 6:35 am

>27 kac522: My observation is that when novelists achieve a certain degree of commercial/critical success they apparently gain more leverage over their editors. Passages of extraneous observation or opinion which could have been excised to the benefit of the narrative are allowed to remain, for example.

Editado: Jun 2, 2023, 10:54 am

>28 CDVicarage: I'm so glad I'm not the only one--I've heard so many people loved this book. That's interesting that it's now offered in 2 volumes; a better plan. Not that I'm against long books--I've always got a Dickens or Trollope on the go on audiobook.
>29 booksaplenty1949: I think some of the extra musings in this book probably meant a lot to people who lived through it, but it was presented in a way that lacked depth for readers who didn't. There's a lot assumed about knowledge of the times that gets lost as the era becomes part of the distant past.

Jun 2, 2023, 1:46 pm

>30 kac522: That’s the difference between a great writer and a competent hack. Dickens makes Christmas at Dingley Dell come alive for us even if we know nothing of Victorian cooking or ice-rink sports. A hack throws out buzzwords which mean something to the initiated but add up to not much once they hold no personal associations for the reader.

Editado: Jun 2, 2023, 2:08 pm

>31 booksaplenty1949: Yep, if this book ever gets re-printed as a "classic", it will need a LOT of explanatory notes ;)

Earlier in the month I re-read A Month in the Country by J. L. Carr (1980), which also is about a WWI vet going to the country to heal from his injuries and the war. In 135 pages covering just one summer, Carr carefully chooses his words, and to my mind, expertly draws the character of Birkin and the times. There were a couple of things I needed to look up (some architectural terms, "Church" vs. "Chapel", etc.), but one could read the book without knowing these exact meanings and still come away with a powerful book. It's one I'll always remember, while I fear Delderfield's tome will fade fast.

Jun 2, 2023, 2:14 pm

>32 kac522: Well, it *won’t* get reprinted as a “classic”—-that’s the point. If you look at a list of, say, NYT best-sellers from fifty years ago you will note that you’ve never heard of most of them and they are out of print and will remain so.

Jun 11, 2023, 3:44 pm

It was a bit into June but I ended up enjoying both The Matter of Wales and Long Summer Days. The latter was very long but Delderfield kept my interest as we moved from coronation to coronation at the turn of the century.

Jun 13, 2023, 6:56 am

>34 witchyrichy: I loved Long Summer Day, part of A Horseman Riding By series. I think it was my first Delderfield.