Dangerous Ages

“A bicycling tour with Nan isn’t nearly so safe as the front trenches of my youth used to be,” Barry commented. “Those quiet, comfortable old days!”

Dangerous Ages (1921) by Rose Macaulay is very definitely a post-war novel. Potterism, her novel of the year before, is one in which the War resonates even as the characters look to the future, but in this one, hostilities are part of a rather irrelevant past. The only characters who still seem very interested in the war are the earnest young men who live at the Red House, a hostel for young progressives:

…all that fell from them was poetry, pathetic in its sadness, bitter in its irony, free of metrical or indeed of any other restraints, and mainly either about how unpleasant had been the trenches in which they spent the Great War and those persons over military age who had not been called upon to enter them, or about freedom; free love, free thought, and a free world. (I am aware that both these subjects sound a little old-fashioned, but the Red House was concerned with these elemental things which do not change).

Dangerous Ages is not old-fashioned, but bang up-to-date (for 1921) with its analysis of the prospects for women who have rejected traditional roles, and its satire on psychoanalysis. (This last is the sharpest bit of the novel. Thoroughly conventional Mrs Hilary overcomes her prejudice against Freud and hugely enjoys her analysis – because it gives her the opportunity to talk endlessly about herself. And there’s Rosalind, the lubricious female psychoanalist, who only wants male patients, and specialises in shell-shocked officers.)

The book is about a four generations of women in a family – all at “dangerous ages”, and most feeling that life’s opportunities may be slipping past them.

“As to that,” said Mr Craddock, “we may say that all ages are dangerous to all people, in this dangerous life we live.”

The book has turned out to be rather marginal to my research – but it’s one of the most enjoyable novels I’ve read for ages, so no problem. Highly recommended.

One Comment

  1. Posted October 8, 2006 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    Dangerous Ages sounds wonderful — thanks for the recommendation. It’s lovely how many interesting things you’re turning up in your research. Best, BL

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