This week I am reading two quite old books interchangeably; The Group by Mary McCarthy and Sprig Muslin by Georgette Heyer. The Group was originally publishing in 1962 and I am reading a yellowing, spine-cracked 1966 edition. My edition of Sprig Muslin (1958) is from 1968. Both books have that lovely soft, floppy feel, and a page colour that is the book equivalent of lamplight to a new book’s florescent bulb.
I began the week stridently obsessed with reading The Group, billed in it’s 2010 reissue as a mid century precursor to Sex and the City. McCarthy’s language is bitingly sharp; she is ruthlessly perceptive and the novel is hilarious both for the snappy character sketches and for the now ludicrously archaic sticky social situations with which the characters must grapple. I became totally absorbed in each character’s problems which are so realistically heart-wrenching that I had to set the book aside for a rest.
My chosen antidote was, of course, one of Georgette Heyer’s Regency novels. All her books in this genre are full of floaty dresses, calling cards, bafflingly complicated social conventions and young scallywags who by the book’s end have been tamed into marriageable material. It’s completely absurd which is why I love it. Even though a sporadic dose of Heyer can soothe and relax me as nothing else, I can’t take too much all at once. I am thoroughly enjoying Sprig Muslin, but I am already looking forward to something with a little more intellectual meat.