Kitty

I've had Warwick Deeping's Kitty (1927) on my shelves for a month or two, and have been reluctant to get into it. Deeping's Sorrell and Son is such a cloying book – emotionally powerful, cleverly written, but you feel you're being dragged to places you'd rather not go. If you don't know that book, it's about an ex-officer down on his luck, who can only get a job as a hotel porter, but who scrimps and saves to give his beloved  son a public school and university education. In other words the book idealises the sort of parent who lays shedloads of crippling moral obligation onto their children  -the sort of parent that the Beatles would parody in She's Leaving Home:

She (We gave her most of our lives)
is leaving (Sacrificed most of our lives)
home (We gave her everything money could buy)

Kitty (on the basis of the first thirty pages) seems more promising. A young soldier is afraid of going to the front for the first time, "so out of love with himself that his service revolver had suggested a weak way out." His mother is coldly respectable, so she's no help, but he meets a sympathetic but tough shop-girl called Kitty (Deeping lets us know that although she's a shop-girl, her father had been a doctor, so the class is OK, even though dad died penniless.) Their romance is developing promisingly.

I like the depiction of the mother:

"In a sense she had made the war her own, and had allowed it to give expression to her prejudices… she looked well on a platform, and could speak with chilling reasonableness."

That phrase about allowing the war "to give expression to her prejudices" is rather good. It chimes with what I've found in lots of wartime writing – their attitudes aren't changed by the war; they use the war to give fuller expression to attitudes they held already.

So far I'm enjoying the book. I'll post occasional progress reports as I go on…

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