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Posts Tagged ‘francis brett young’

I have known Michael Hall since I was about ten, he and his wife were always good frineds with my parents, and still see Mum now and again.  I remember Michael talking about Francis Brett Younfg years ago – and it meaning nothing to me,  untill  I saw him again at my dads funeral – he mentioned FBY in passing to his wife – and I thought I wonder if I  would like FBY books. Well I have now read 4 FBY novels and have another 6 tbr.  This book was on my dad’s bookcase and I pinched it to read.  I know Michael is a real authority on FBY – and is also the chairman of the Francis Brett Young society.

This is a well researched account of Brett Young’s life and work. It is a precise and well put togther piece of writting. Any fan of Brett Young would be fascinated by the account of his early life, the difficult relationship he had with his father, his medical training in Birmingham, and his long literary career. He rubbed shoulders with some well known names – such as D H Lawrence and George Bernard Shaw. There were some things about Brett Young I was surprised at – and it made me wonder if I had a time machine – and could meet him I would like him – I didn’t fully answer that question for myself – but I certainly want to read more of his work.

On the subject of his work  – I have just discovered (well last week) that there is a publisher that have published his novels is lovely paperback editions in the last few years and some are available on Amazon.

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Jenny Hadley’s early years were spent in Mawne Heath, a barren, blighted environment on the verge of the industrial Midlands. Her father, a hard man given to drink and ‘womanising’, was a chain maker with his own forge behind the hovel in which the family lived. When her mother suddenly left home Jenny was sent to live with her grandfather and deeply devout Aunt Thirza in the depths of Werewood (Wyre Forest) in Worcestershire. Jenny was desperately lonely in the old cottage by the Gladden Brook but as the seasons passed she grew to love both her grandfather and the sprawling forest. Then in spring, when the cherry trees were thick with blossom, Uncle Jem came visiting with Cousin David. During the ensuing idyllic days Jenny’s heart was lost! A bond developed between the cousins but, apart from a second brief meeting, both cousins were to experience many twists of fortune before their paths crossed again.

As with other FBY books, this really brings to life the whole period and region. The accents of the people of the people of the Black country and Worcestershire come across strongly. FBY puts me in mind slightly of Thomas Hardy – inasmuch as the people he wrote about were real. They lived harsh and difficult lives, the ending are not always happy, or sometimes characters have some pretty bad things happen to them on the way to a happy ending. This is hugely readable, and the 550 odd pages don’t seem as long as with other books.  I have to confess I am writing this review when I still haven’t quite finished the book, but I will finish it today, and I was by a computer so…

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Jonathan is a hero in the tragic mould, his life dogged by inexorable fate. Physically unattractive but endowed with a selfless, loving spirit, he is despised by his parents and overshadowed by his indulged younger brother, Harold. When his father is accidentally killed Jonathan supports the penniless family renouncing dreams of a distinguished medical career to become junior partner in a rundown general practice. Meanwhile Harold, old Harrovian and Cambridge cricketing blue, is welcomed into the homes of the cream of local society, particularly those with eligible daughters, including Edie Martyn, with whom Jonathan falls madly in love. The outbreak of the Great War triggers a series of dramatic events at the culmination of which Jonathan finds requited love at last in a final twist of fate

This is in no way a happy story, but it is a brilliant novel, and I loved every page. First published in 1928 it is wiritten in FBY usual rather flowery style, but  is hugely readable and I engaged with the characters instantly. It paints an amazingly clear picture of medicine and general practice  in the early twentieth century, before the NHS.  The living conditions of the poor in the Black Country of this period are discribed with unflinching honesty – and  that alone  could make this a very memorable book. However there are so many dramatic twists and turns in the telling of the story of Dr Jonathan Dakers life, over about 600 pages,  that it is amazing that this book has ceased to be printed.  I finished this book a few hours ago, and I can’t get these characters out of my head. I loved it, but it left me feeling sad.

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From the FBY society:
The book traces a few months in the life of a picturesque, quintessentially English village with its roots in the Middle Ages. On the surface idyllic, the author strips bare its underlying tensions, prejudices, rivalries, tragedies, successes and failures. Set in the early l920’s on the threshold of social change, some village inhabitants still bear the scars, physical or emotional, of the Great War. The old, impoverished gentry, with their time-honoured ideals of duty and paternalism, are challenged by the arrival in their midst of a rich, retired manufacturer whose well-intentioned but inappropriate aspirations threaten the way of life of the whole village. This Little World is a rural saga which follows the activities and relationships of a variety of characters, and includes several budding romances. All takes place under the scrutiny of old Miss Loach, the self-appointed guardian of village morals. Add to this some lyrical descriptions of the Worcestershire countryside and you have a skilfully woven, thoroughly readable and delightful book.

This novel originally published in 1934 is over 600 pages long, but it is quite a quick read -although for various reasons it has taken me 5 day. I loved having this to come home to and I am rather sad I have finished it. The novel highlights how the world began to change for many people after the first world war. The city began to encroach upon the countryside, electricity and such things as petrol pumps were brought to small rural communities – and the the landed gentry had to make way for the new rich, some of whom had made their money in munitions during the war that left so many families grieving.

My second FBY and I loved it too.

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The first Francis Brett Young I have read – and the first of many I hope

This novel written in 1942 – is about two middle aged sisters who come to live at North Bromich in their family home with their elderly father. Upon his death they find it difficult to make ends meet. At this point s timely bequest comes their way in the shape of a villa and estate in Italy from a disreputable uncle who died intestate. They are met by Salvatore – their new butler who helps them manage their estate – but whose family once many years before owned the land themselves. Salvatore is a younger handsome man, and quickly makes himself indespensible to Agnes in particular. Ellen the younger sister is unsettled by him, and hears things from another local Englishman which worry her further.

I have to say I loved every page of this book, and could hardly put it down. I have another F. B young book at home, and I am now really looking forard to reading it too.

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