|The Late Breakfasters by Robert Aickman
||[Jan. 5th, 2013|07:05 pm]
The Late Breakfasters by Robert Aickman (Victor Gollancz 1964 251pp)
Robert Aickman is best known for his “weird tales” and this novel, while apparently taking place in the real world is not entirely devoid of elements, or should I say hints, of the supernatural.
“The Late Breakfasters” traces the experiences of Griselda de Reptonville as she enters society and learns about love, loss, and earning a living in the real world.
Prejudice and the old world order feature as major themes in the book. Prejudice is demonstrated through the characters in relation to social class, lesbianism, and the position of women in the family and in society. Anti-Semitism is demonstrated and servants are presented as little more than the chattel of their masters.
Part one recounts the events on the occasion of Griselda’s visit to ‘Beams’, a stately home ruled over by Mrs Hatch for whom Griselda’s mother fagged at public school. This introduces the reader to the English upper classes, including the Prime Minister and a number of his cabinet colleagues, as well as visiting foreign aristocracy. One also discovers that Beams is haunted and has the opportunity to share with Griselda her feelings on first falling in love. This part of the book is similar to P.G. Wodehouse's stories about Bertie Wooster and his man-servant, Jeeves, only more serious.
The wit and language of the story are the two attributes of this book that I find most entertaining. I found the portrayal of the class divide in England at the time most interesting. Prejudices were presented in some forceful fashions and in subtle ways, almost totally understated.
A common feature of difficult conversations in the book was the refusal of the self-perceived more senior member of the interactions to be specific about the topic under discussion. This of course left their interlocutors at a disadvantage and never too sure as to the cause of any difficulties involved.
One thing the book brings out very clearly is how the English upper class lived in a world totally disconnected with the lives of the ordinary working person and how they believed it was their role in life to manage the masses.
I have noted one commentator stating the book has an enigmatic ending, but having finished the book and then reread the first couple of paragraphs I can say the ending is quite clear.
I found this book fascinating and would recommend it to anyone interested in books that provide a feeling of life in a period long since gone and who have a fine sense of humour.
Unfortunately this book is quite difficult to obtain and I would encourage someone to re-publish this novel. It is a little gem that should be readily available to readers of Robert Aickman’s writing.