Friday 5 March 2021

Josephine Tey

 'Go away from here.  Go away while the going is good.  Go away.  Away from here.'

I made the rookie mistake of reading the blurb on the back of the book before starting Josephine Tey's 1946 novel Miss Pym Disposes and annoyingly it gave away the crime!  It didn't spoil my enjoyment though and I loved the setting - a girls PE college which teaches gymnastics, ballet and anatomy as well as taking in remedial patients.  Just the spareness of the opening sentence shows what a good writer Tey is:

'A bell clanged.  Brazen, insistent, maddening.'

The central premise - young woman writer visits alma mater and her success and stylishness proves to be a hit with the girls and the teachers - is not disimilar to Dorothy L Sayers' Gaudy Night although they differ in style and focus.  In fact, the hectic timetable, teachers arguing in the staff room and a bit of cheating in an exam reminded me a lot of the Enid Blyton classic girl school stories Malory Towers and St Clare's. 

Before whole-heartedly recommending Miss Pym Disposes though I will just say that those of us who read a lot of novels from the early part of the 20th C have to keep a sense of place and time and there are a couple of expressions in this book which are really not acceptable now. 

I've also started another Tey novel The Singing Sands set in the bleak beauty of the Scottish Highlands.  It has a great opening with a London Euston train sliding into a Scottish station.  On board is Detective Alan Grant of Scotland Yard visiting an old friend in the 'great clean Highland country' on doctor's orders.  Overworked and suffering from claustrophobia Grant is planning to fish the lochs and relax.  On board, there is also a dead body, as is the way with detective novels and Alan Grant doesn't want to get involved.  He's off duty, he's not well, he's going on holiday.  But something about the dead man's young face and rumpled black hair gives me the impression that Grant is not going to have a relaxing holiday.


Cath said...

Yes, if you read a lot of vintage fiction, crime or otherwise, you have to accept that they said things or held opinion we find unacceptable now. I shudder sometimes but plough on, it serves as a lesson in how much things have changed.

Oh, The Singing Sands is excellent. I think I've loved all of Tey's output other than the first two Alan Grants which I liked but didn't 'really' grab me as Bratt Farrar just has for instance.

Lark said...

Everyone raves about Josephine Tey. I've sadly never read her, but I really want to. Especially this one! :)

R's Rue said...

I need to read this

Nan said...

In 2016 and 17 I read five of the Alan Grant books at Cath's recommendations, and I loved them! I haven't read Miss Pym ... yet. I also bought her biography, but also haven't gotten to it. Such a good writer!

Carol said...

Miss Pym was the last Tey I had to read. A bit sad now that I've finished her crime novels but I will read them again at some point.

Kat said...

I love Josephine Tey! A few years ago I found myself absorbed in Brat Farrar, but Miss Pim Disposes sounds even better. Anything compared to Gaudy Night is for me.

Mage said...

I will have to try Tay. But I see no notations as to D. E. Stevenson or Elizabeth Cadell.

Vintage Reading said...

Cath, yes The Singing Sands is my favourite Tey, I think.

Lark, crime isn't really my genre but Tey is a great writer.

Rue, I hope you like it!

Nan, I didn't know there was a Tey biog. Would be interested to read it. I know she died in her fifties and had theatrical friends and connections but that is all.

Carol, yes she wasn't prolofic sadly for us!

Kat yes I think you would like Miss Pym and I bet you guess whodunnit!

Mage, nope not read either of them! My blog name is a bit of a misnomer as I read a lot of contemporary fiction,too but I do like recommendations.

IzaBzh said...

I had the same problem with the blurb of Mary Barton too, recently :( I read The daughters of time many years ago, I'd love to rediscover Josephine Tey !

Anbolyn said...

I read this a few years ago and actually liked it better than I did Gaudy Night! I think maybe Tey's writing style is preferable to me but I should probably read a few more of her novels before I judge fairly.

Martha Peterson said...
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Vintage Reading said...

LzaBzh Oh it's a long time since I read Mary Barton.

Anbolyn, yes I think Tey has quite a masculine writing style. Very different to Sayers. Probably Sayers language has dated more.