Monday, June 11, 2012

Greenery Street

Greenery Street by Denis Mackail, is an interesting novel in that it doesn't concern itself with sticking to a traditional narrative trajectory. In fact, it tells the reader right up front exactly what will happen in the course of the book: Ian and Felicity Foster, a newlywed couple in 1920's London, will move into their first home on Greenery Street, a block filled with other young married couples, settle in for a year or so, and ultimately leave Greenery Street once they start a family and outgrow their small house (small, that is, in the way that three floors serviced by a maid and a cook is considered small). There are a few recurring threads during the course of the novel, like whiffs of marriage trouble for Felicity's older sister and foreboding bills that keep arriving to challenge the Foster's limited income, but most everything else that occurs between the opening and closing pages is limited to the minute dramas of daily life.

Knowing all of that from the beginning, I started the book tentatively, unsure of how engaging a simple slice of life tale would be. Although by no means the most compelling or entertaining book I've read, I was pleasantly surprised by how much it held my interest. It was fun watch the Fosters try to navigate the mundane challenges of married life, completely unaware of their own naiveté. There were a handful of times when Felicity's character verged on being irritating, particularly in the constant emphasis of her lack of common sense with money, or her frivolous reading habits. For the most part, though, Felicity's faults were balanced by an equal amount of ridiculousness on Ian's part, which kept her from being too much of a caricature of a "silly little woman". Together, Felicity and Ian take small steps to overcome a shared inexperience in a way that's mostly charming and easy to relate to, even from a modern reader's perspective.

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