Book Review

Novel on Yellow Paper by Stevie Smith

Photo on 24-03-2013 at 16.35

This is absolutely my kind of thing. Stylistically experimental, full of various exploratory digressions and displaying a full and rounded insight into a single character.

No real plot of sorts, just snapshots, digressions, self-concious explorations of a life. Various issues discussed – literature, sexuality, class, class relations, working, marriage, child-rearing, war, prejudice… it is a wide ranging text, and though it may not go particularly deeply into any one topic, or (really) any one part of the semi-autobiographical protagonist’s life, what is created is a rather complete sense of a particular person in a very particular time and place. London, the magazine industry, international relations – the sweep of accuracy, of felt honesty, is enjoyable, and is far reaching.

As the lead’s engagement falls apart, as she relives her mother’s death, as she laments on disappointing holidays, the growing rise of dictators in Europe, one may expect the text to be depressing, or at the very least dry. But it isn’t – it is constantly involving (almost conversational) – and often very funny. A particular high point for me was a section where she mocks a man sat opposite her on a train for having bought Lady Chatterley’s Lover under the false presumption of it being erotica.

It’s good, it’s enjoyable. It’s like a 1930s rewrite of Tristram Shandy. And it’s short. So there’s no reason not to read it.

1 comment on “Novel on Yellow Paper by Stevie Smith

  1. Pingback: Review: Speedboat by Renata Adler | The Triumph of the Now

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