Spring is also a time to take stock of things that need attention around the house. The curtains covering a palladian window didn't survive this year's annual wash so my sewing machine saw the light of day for the first time in a few years. A new front door is arriving any day, and I decided to say goodbye to my twelve year old car before it said goodbye to me...on the side of the road, late at night. I'm quite certain the first space ship to the moon had fewer computerized capabilities and a slimmer owner's manual.
A busy month was the perfect time to grab a short story collection from my shelves. When I found this book at an antique show in Elora a couple of years ago, I knew nothing about it other than it was by E. M. Delafield and cost three dollars. Once back at home, a quick search on a book site made my eyes widen as Love Has No Resurrection is not easy to come by and prices range anywhere from sixty to eighty-five dollars.
Published in 1939, a few years before Delafield's death in 1943, this anthology is a wonderful pick and mix of styles and themes. Some of the stories had previously appeared in Time and Tide, Good Housekeeping and The Radio Times.
One of my favourites is called The Reason. In the blush of an affair, Oliver and Catherine are vacationing in Brittany. Oliver's wife has been told he's staying with his family in Wales for the month of September. For awhile, the situation is idyllic...romantic dinners, strolls on the beach, and the sharing of inside jokes about the other vacationers. Two spinsters are cruelly given the nicknames of Miss Lump and Miss Dump; pitied for their blandness. But then Oliver announces he's been called away. Catherine spends her days writing to Oliver while waiting for a reply...
'To be frantic over a delay, over the non-arrival of a letter, the breaking of an appointment, is the privilege of the secure, for whom the unutterable bliss of reassurance is waiting on the morrow.But to be frantic with no underlying expectation of relief is to court madness.'
Not all of the writing in these stories is as brilliant as the above, but with those two sentences there can be no doubt of Delafield's brilliance as a writer.
Dipping into a bit of crime writing in They Don't Wear Labels, Delafield portrays the danger of assuming that all is as it appears to be. The Peverelli's seek lodging at a boarding house. Mrs Peverelli seems to be the weak sort who languishes in bed, her pallor is ghostly, and she weeps. Her husband, a commercial traveller, can't seem to do enough for her. The landlady, Mrs Fuller, has definite opinions about the sort of woman who relies on being catered to. One night, Mrs Peverelli goes too far...while her husband is out she sends another resident, a little girl, to the kitchen for a cup of hot cocoa. Mrs Fuller is in just the mood to have her say, so with cocoa in hand, she heads up the stairs. But instead, Mrs Peverelli unburdens herself with a horrifying story - she's being poisoned by her husband. Mrs Fuller is shaken and left to decide which Peverelli is to be believed.
The mindset and circumstance of the aging woman is a thread carried through several of the stories in this collection. I had forgotten that Delafield died in her early fifties, surely not old enough to have felt invisible, but clearly she felt she had some insight. In The Young Are In Earnest, Oliver Innes lives alone in a flat in Jermyn Street. His constant companion is the beautiful Mrs Bannister, widowed and living in Chelsea. Yes, this is a story filled with descriptions of how the other half live...the sort of people who wonder what a weekend is and announce luncheon with a gong. Mrs Bannister has an invitation to join the Russels at their seaside property and wonders if Oliver would like to come along. Ever so secure in the knowledge that she's an independent woman with a handsome companion, the countryside whizzes past during the drive and life couldn't be any better. Then the Russels stunning daughter, Sylvie, shows up in a dazzling bathing suit with a sun-kissed face. Suddenly I hear the age-old directive...'Mirror, mirror on the wall....'. Delafield keenly paints a picture of jealousy, insecurity, and the fear of loneliness.
As I mentioned earlier, not all of the stories will remain with me for a lifetime but this collection is perfect as a description of 1930s nuance and surprisingly bold at times in terms of sexuality. If you spot a copy going for a song in a dusty bookstall - buy it!
Kip...he's one year old next week! And no, this isn't our home...but it is a pretty background.
The side-view of a home in Roseland this past Easter weekend. A fun-filled afternoon of gathering eggs, no doubt!