Friday, February 27, 2015

A Year with Mrs. Appleyard - February

I will never understand fame - why some are so well known in their fields and others, who may be just as talented are nearly forgotten. Louise Andrews Kent is the example of the latter. I’ve read the very famous Thurber, and I don’t think his humor and wit hold a candle to Kent’s. Of course, humor is a very personal thing. What makes one person laugh, doesn’t even bring a smile to another. 

To me she is hilarious. As I sat reading the February installment, I laughed out loud a few times, and silently smiled all through it. This is the humor of E.M. Delafield, who wrote the Provincial Lady books, and George and Weedon Grossmith, who wrote The Diary of a Nobody.

I love how the February entry in Mrs. Appleyard's Year begins.
Harsh things have been said about February, but not by Mrs. Appleyard. She likes its uncertain temper, its ability to produce snowdrifts one minute and snowdrops the next…
She goes on to write what we mothers of grown-up children may occasionally feel.
Willows turning faintly golden against a dark blue sky with ragged clouds blown across it always delude her into the idea that this year spring will come early. When she realizes she has been fooled again, she stays happily indoors. There is a strain of groundhog blood in her ancestry, Mr. Appleyard says. She sees her shadow and digs in again. She goes to bed early and makes up for it by getting up late. She reads Pride and Prejudice, Walden, Rob Roy - long, leisurely books that she can go to sleep over and pick up another evening. ... Toward six in the morning she sometimes suffers from a few moments of insomnia. Years of getting out of bed at that grim gray hour and chivvying the children into clean clothes, making indelicate insinuations about the backs of necks and the edges of fingernails, juggling with oatmeal and poached eggs, forcing rubbers on reluctant feet, cajoling the sulky motor from the faint pop to the full-throated roar - these cannot be entirely forgotten. She wakes sharply with the nightmare feeling that she must warm the baby's bottle, sew on the lost button, ... So she must get up and begin her duties as policewoman, chauffeur, nose and throat specialist, and dietician. Only, wonderful feeling, she doesn't have to. The children are grown up. She can turn over and go to sleep again.
The author talks about February illnesses, and well I remember this from my childhood. I often wondered who would be able to come to my birthday party, and how many would have the measles or chickenpox.

From writing of guest towels,
Rather than sully such perfection, the guests have wiped their hands surreptitiously on the corner of a stray family bathtowel or on their own handkerchiefs or on the bathmat.
she goes right into world affairs, and somehow brings humor to wartime. It was startling for me to realize that as she was writing, the US was not yet in the war. I so loved reading
Mrs. Appleyard is sure the British are going to win the war. She has several reasons, but the most important are Mr. Churchill, her Aunt Hildegarde, and the British telephone. ... It was Aunt Hildegarde who wrote to Mrs. Appleyard in 1914 to ask why the United States had not yet come into the war to help Britain.'All the other colonies have,' she reminded her niece.
Louise Andrews Kent continues with what we so admire about the British in the Second World War as she explains what Aunt Hildegarde's letter says,
'I will just spend the time the bombers are overhead to write and tell you the family news.' ...'And now the all clear has sounded. Such good luck. I shall just have time to take the socks I have been knitting to the rectory and be back for tea'
The bit about British telephones is very, very funny as Mrs. Appleyard tells of a time in the late 1930s when she was in England and wanted to make a call. 
... a comfortable train with compartments much larger than a phone booth would have taken her to her friends' house in three hours and it had taken her two hours to telephone.
It is no wonder, she considers, that one of the first war measures was to forbid private use of the telephone. With the time saved simply by not chatting with City Directory, Hitler can be pushed into the British Channel. She is sure a people strengthened by contact with Buttons A and B will have no trouble doing it.
I think this is great stuff. The writing is sharp, clever, funny, and filled with warmth. I'm so loving these little monthly readings.


  1. You are really making my appetite for this book grow, Nan! Such descrpitive, yet concise language, with a humour that is truly elegant with nothing vulgar in it. (In case you have not yet noticed, "elegant" is the highest compliment I can pay a writer.)

  2. You seem to always find unique books. I like to read what other authors have written about the seasons, so this one seems right up my alley. I agree ^^ that the writing is elegant and graceful.

  3. "indelicate insinuations about the backs of necks" THAT IS GORGEOUS I've never heard of this before and now must hunt it out!
    Thanks Nan

  4. The cover is very drawing. I am not familiar with the author but enjoyed what you wrote here. I will look for this one.

  5. Of course I loved this post and thanks to you for introducing me to a writer I didn't know. It is strange how some of these wonderfully talented people vanish beneath the waves. I am recommending Adrian Bell to everybody on this same theory. He wrote a "rural trilogy" about his metamorphosis from middle class university student to farmer back in the 30s. The books are beautifully written, enjoyable every moment, and were all huge best sellers back in their day but no one seems to know them now.

  6. One of my favorite writers...She's so down to earth and fun but has wonderful standards and a sense of adventure.......Did you ever find a copy of Mrs. Appleyard and I?

    1. Yes, I did! I wrote back to your original comment in January. I always wonder if I should do my replies in a different way because I would guess no one ever comes back after they've left me a note. :<)

  7. I'm sure I would love this book as I did enjoy the Provincial Lady books, or the two that I read. But it seems like this is one I couldn't find an inexpensive copy of, or maybe it was another one by the same author?

    The children are grown up, I can turn over and go to sleep again--yes, I would identify with her!

  8. I love Mrs A., as did mother, so I thank you most sincerely for this. It's time for me to reread her books...

  9. I love this blog and love the sound of this book. I wonder if I can get it in the UK? Off to find out!


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