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Furrowed Middlebrow is an exciting new development for Dean Street Press. Following the Furrowed Middlebrow blog, this imprint will rediscover and reissue entertaining and important works by lesser-known British women novelists and memoirists.
The years 1910-1960 were an unprecedented and prolific era for female authors, documenting – eloquently, humorously, poignantly (or frequently all of the above) – the social change, upheaval, and evolving gender roles of a volatile era. These years bookended two world wars, a global depression, the women's suffrage movement, seismic economic and class shifts, the beginning of the Cold War, and dramatic changes in ordinary day-to-day life. Women writers created some of the most insightful and compelling literature of the period. The great majority of their works, however, were neglected in later years, when publishers and critics grew to value other kinds of literature over what became known as the ‘middlebrow’.
In recent years, scholars and readers alike have begun to rediscover the middlebrow and recognize it for the vital cultural form it is. Furrowed Middlebrow aims to support this with the republication of some of the finest of the genre.
I wonder how many women today are back in their pre-war ruts. For how many was the war merely a temporary disarrangement and for how many others has it meant complete re-adjustment, an entirely new set of circumstances? This is a stupid thought for me to have when, even in my own case, I don’t know the answer.
‘The trouble with you, Anne, is that you’re always imagining things.’ Who had said that? Probably mother. Or the governess before she left to get married. How disagreeable, and it was all the fault of the sub-conscious. . . . Why didn’t the sub-conscious ever turn up things like: ‘Anne, how beautiful you are looking today.’
At the end of the war, Mrs. Midge stayed on. While the war lasted Mrs. Custance had accepted her as part of the war-effort; it was only in the past year or two that Mrs. Midge had been transferred to the category which Mrs. Custance described as “people we could manage without.”
A widow, at an age when birthdays are best forgotten, with no children to occupy her mind, can be very lonely. Julia Dunstan knew she was more fortunate than most widows, not merely because she was prosperous—as widows go—but because she had always taken an interest in other people.
‘Take off your coat,’ said the doctor. I took it off. ‘And your dress,’ he said. ‘It’s too dangerous – the folds may catch in the debris and bring the whole thing down.’ I took off the dress. ‘Fine,’ he said shortly. ‘It’ll have to be head first. We’ll hold your thighs. Go down and see if it’s possible to give an injection. Can you grip the torch with your teeth?’
It was curious that the aerial bombardment of London, which had ennobled so much that was normally sordid, should only debase a love affair between two people who had managed for three years to overcome the threat to their relations implicit in all such. To die together would be simple. It would not be so simple to be dug out still alive...
Iain stood for a few minutes on the little bridge that crossed the burn and looked at the house—he felt that he had betrayed it. No people save his own had ever lived in the house, and now he had sold it into slavery. For three months it would shelter strangers beneath its roof, for three months it would not belong to him.
There is so much War News in News Bulletins, in Newspapers, and so much talk about the war that I do not intend to write about it in my diary. Indeed my diary is a sort of escape from the war . . . though it is almost impossible to escape from the anxieties which it brings.
Miss Clutterbuck would like me to run the bar—no, it can’t be that—run the car, which has seen its best days but is still useful for shopping. Grace has told her I am patient and tactful, so (as she herself is neither the one nor the other) she thinks I am the right person to look after the social side.
Sometimes it is difficult to see clearly in what direction one’s duty lies (and especially difficult for people like myself with a husband in one part of the world and children in another) but Tim and I, talking it over together in cold blood, decided that I ought to go home.
We might be living in the first chapter of one of my own detective stories. A woman lay dead upstairs; in another bedroom a man was having hysterics; in the kitchen a grey parrot was imitating their voices; and in the sitting-room the pugs, terror in their popping eyes. Henry’s sisters would join us, and Mr Galvain; and I, the stranger, sat waiting to meet them.
“It’s awful to think that there are nine of us here to-day at this table and in six months’ time we may all be dead,” said Miss Purbeck. “There were thousands killed last night, so the bus conductor told me.”
“You certainly are our little ray of sunshine,” said Elsie scornfully.