Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Fortnight in September - R. C. Sherriff

This was a Persephone e-book (more about that later), so there's no lovely cover to go with this post.  Somewhere, there must be a photo of the cover of the original, but I can't find it.

R. C. Sherriff has become one of my favorite authors.  First, I read Greengates and loved it.  I read The Hopkins Manuscript next.  I don't usually like Science Fiction, but this was the kind I do like.  Perfect.  Then I read Chedworth, another book I adored, and now The Fortnight in September.  I'm hooked.  I think I have five more to go, but some of them are hard to find.  I've been lucky to find three at my library.

The Fortnight in September is about normal people going to the seaside for their two-week vacation.  They're British, it's the 1930s (I believe), and they go to Bognor, to Seaview, the same holiday rental they've gone to for twenty years, since before the children were born.  Mr. and Mrs. Huggett owned the place, but Mr. Huggett has died.  Mrs. Huggett struggles these days.  She's getting older, as is the house, and some of her seasonal regulars are going to nicer places.

Mr. & Mrs. Stevens, their daughter Mary, their sons Dick and Ernie, plan and pack and divvy up the pre-vacation chores.  Mary takes Joe, the canary, to a neighbor, Mrs. Stevens takes the key to the retired policeman and his wife across the street.  The milkman will bring milk for the neighbor to give to the cat.  It's all so ordinary.  They leave on the train and they see their house from the tracks at the end of their yard.  Mr. Stevens is relieved to see that he did remember to close the bathroom window and there's Puss sitting on the shed roof.

Sherriff captures the holiday feelings many of us have.  The breeze from the open train window is refreshing;  at home, it would be a draft and the window would be closed.  They envy the trunks on the train that are plastered with labels from all over the world.  They anticipate the long break, they're a bit depressed mid-holiday when they realize that their vacation time is slipping by, they feel superior to others who are only day trippers.  They rent a larger beach hut than they usually do, one with a balcony, and they enjoy the luxury.

At the seaside, Mary meets a boy, Dick realizes that his education and job are second class but were all that his hard working father could afford.  Ernie is only ten and is a hoot.  At the train station, he wonders if the ticket seller was shoved through the ticket slot as a baby because he can't see how he could have gotten in otherwise.  He sees a notice warning people not to throw things out the train window that might hurt railway workers.  He thinks, in fairness, they should list the things it's okay to throw out the window.

I think it's a wonderfully detailed, relaxing book.  I've said that R. C. Sherriff's books are all different, but I do notice a few themes.  He's aware that the countryside is disappearing under housing estates.  'Villas had risen where larks used to rise.'  He also has great respect for ordinary people.

Back to the Persephone e-book format.  I bought this from Amazon.  I had to check because the book was so confusing at times that I thought I might have downloaded it from Gutenberg or one of those sites.  I have no idea how you screw up a book this badly!  Voice recognition?  It certainly wouldn't pass Spell Check.  I was reading along and ran up against total nonsense.  In addition to the whimsical and random use of commas, here are just a few of the many, many hilarious errors:

     'these cretary'  (should be 'the secretary')

     'Here ached for the jam.'  ('he reached for the jam.')

     'this knobs witches it off'  ('this knob switches it off')



  1. I dunno, sometimes the need for a pb&j could almost be an ache for jam? :)

  2. Hope you didn't pay too much, Joan. That's very frustrating.

    1. I paid $9.98 for it, more than I usually pay for a book! The great story compensated a bit, but I felt incensed that the book was treated that way.

  3. That is so annoying, we really should complain, at least in an e-book they should be able to fix the mistakes, although I must admit they're quite funny too.

    1. It was a bit like reading a riddle book. There didn't seem to be so many at the front of the book, but I, too, think it's inexcusable.