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Thursday, April 14, 2022

A New View Of Old-Fashioned

On more than one occasion I've been known to reflexively dismiss a book, piece of music, or film that strikes me as old-fashioned. I'm not proud of this reflex because there's little doubt I've missed out on some worthwhile stuff. This sometimes misguided stance might be connected to my wish to remain in the here and now. And I suspect I'm also trying to avoid books, music, and film aimed at reinforcing that tired "those were the golden days" nonsense. 

But recently I've come across two excellent contemporary novels belonging squarely in the old-fashioned basket that I can recommend almost without reservation. The Great Fire (2003) by Shirley Hazzard and Miss Benson's Beetle (2020) by Rachel Joyce use a classic three act structure, tell their moving stories in a linear way, and use prose that never draws attention to itself, while exploring territory covered in countless novels. Hazzard's is a love story forged by the cauldron of WWII, Joyce takes the reader on a quest with two unlikely friends - each pursuing their vocation - to New Caledonia. Neither novel is perfect but both are easy to get lost in, a genuine pleasure to read, and delightfully old-fashioned in all the best ways.

What was the most recent old-fashioned novel that captivated you as these two did me? I have Richard Ford to thank for recommending The Great Fire and my younger sister - a charter member of my reading posse - to thank for Miss Benson's Beetle. If any of you get around to reading either, please let me know what you think via a comment here, drop me an e-mail, or ask an old-fashioned Pony Express rider to deliver a note to me. Whichever method you choose, I'm interested in your view.               



  1. Two more to add to my growing list of 'what to read next'. And I say that with sincere appreciation. Although, as I've stated previously, I am not the reader that you are, I am much better than I used to be and look forward to suggestions. Especially with books that one can 'get lost in'.

    1. "Anonymous" Bob; I'm thrilled if any of my posts about books plays any role in inspiring you to read more, one of your oft-stated goals. Of these two, "Miss Benson's Beetle" will likely grab you a bit quicker, mostly because "The Great Fire" has a little bit more on its mind.