Thursday, February 9, 2012

Review: Living



In Living, Henry Green accurately captures life in an English factory town in the 1920s. Unfortunately, that is all that is good about the book and everything that is not.

His descriptions of the hard and risky labor of the factory floor, the back-stabbing squabbles of management, and the drudgery of domestic life are snapshot clear, and he has the dialect down pat. But factory life in a depressed, pre-war, Midlands mill town was a boring grind, and that's what this book is.

There is limited plot, minimal character development, and no contemplation of big themes, other than how unfulfilling and unfair factory life is and that the women had even fewer options. Add to this Green's distracting lack of articles that gives the narrative a "Me Tarzan, you Jane" cadence, and Living becomes a long 175-page slog.

Green is acclaimed as a master of English modernist literature and was as popular in his time as his contemporaries, Evelyn Waugh and Anthony Powell, but his novels haven't aged well. After 90 years of movies and television, a novel that gives no more than a realistic snapshot of a particular slice of life – in this case, factory workers and their families – just doesn't pack the punch it originally did.

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NOTES

I read this for the Henry Green Week reading challenge, hosted by Stu at Winstonsdad's Blog.  It also counts for the Mt. TBR Challenge, the Off the Shelf Challenge, and the two Classics Challenges I'm doing.



2 comments :

Barbara said...

What a shame! It seems like the topic would have loads of potential for a good read but obviously he didn't realize it.

Rose City Reader said...

Barbara: I think he realized exactly what he set out to do -- accurately depict life in a factory town. My problem with it was that, since the book was published, there have been so many movies and tv shows and other books about life in factory towns, that I wasn't satisfied with the basic, realistic snapshot. I wanted variation on the basic theme.

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