Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Books: Pandemic Reading: Patricia Wentworth

So. Let's write something.

A pandemic calls for easy, friendly reading. If that easy, friendly reading caters to one of my prejudices, yay!

So. Patricia Wentworth. Patricia Wentworth is a British author who wrote a whole lot of mysteries and some romances and a fair bit of novels in between, most of them in the first half of the twentieth century. The protagonists and the detectives and all their friends are nice. Sweet. Amusing. With only friendly little flaws. The villains are, well, villains. They rarely have any good points that make you regret their eventual doom. But they're also not the creepy Hannibal Lecter type that keeps you up at night. They lose, and they flutter away with the breeze.

And in between, there's usually a passive-aggressive, narcissistic manipulative woman, or a few of them. And all the characters that you care about see right through them.

I enjoy that.

The other plot that comes up over and over again is what's called, I'm told, a "second chance" romance. A couple who were separated--often by a passive-aggressive, narcissistic manipulative woman--find each other again. It's always pleasing to watch them untangle whatever it was that went wrong however many years ago (sometimes five, sometimes twenty) and go on to their happy ending.

Patricia Wentworth always serves up a happy ending.

There are some bits that make me tilt my head a bit--like a lot of stuff that seems to be about taste, in both dress and home decor. I don't fully understand it. Patricia Wentworth's equivalent of Miss Marple is Miss Maud Silver. In almost every book, there's a detailed description of Miss Silver's home and clothes, with a thread of...contempt? Amusement? Contemptuous amusement? We always hear about yellow maple and prints of Victorian pictures--Hope, The Black Brunswicker, The Stag at Bay, and I think Bubbles. I suspect that if I were a British mid-century citizen, I would completely understand the message. Maybe you can look at those links and translate it for me.

If you want to know where to start, I recommend The Gazebo. You get the passive-aggressive, narcissistic manipulative woman on the very first page, so you know where you are.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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