Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Two People

Title: Two People
Author: AA Milne
Genre: Fiction
Date Finished: 30 June 2009
My Rating: 3 Stars
Challenges: 100+, Numbers

The tag line for Capuchin Classics is "Books to Keep Alive." Their purpose, according to their website, is "reviving great works of fiction which have been unjustly forgotten or neglected. This founding ethos - restoring a richness to the canon in an era of relative blandness - is coupled by a sprinkling of well known favourites to form a series which holds wide appeal."
I've enjoyed reading books from Persephone Books and several other older, out of print or out of popularity books this past year so was interested in trying a few books from Capuchin. I spent some time looking through their catalog of titles and settled on Two People by AA Milne as my first to try. I thought the book sounded interesting and being the uneducated American that I am I had not realized that Milne had written books for adults. I've long loved the Winnie the Pooh series and knew he was a playwright but had never come across any of the novels that he had written.
However, I have been putting off writing about this book because my feelings are so split about it. On many levels I really enjoyed the book but on some levels I really didn't enjoy it all that much.
The book is clever and witty and there was a lot of humor and laughs. Reginald Wellard has written a book and his foray in the publishing and literary world produces some very funny situations as does his encounters with his neighbors and his trips to London to see if anyone is buying or talking about his book. Much of the novel had a very appealing feel and tone and just seemed very British to me. (Makes sense that it would considering Milne was British.)
However, the book is purported to be a study of marriage and in particular how two people with little in common can make a relationship work. I feel calling this novel an accurate portrayal of marriage to be a statement painted with a pretty broad stroke. There was much about Reginald Wellard and his attitude towards his wife that I found difficult to stomach. I felt the little feminist voice inside me wanting to rise up and give the man a talking to a number of times. (And that voice is really very small because I am not really much of a feminist.) It seemed to me that all Reginald cared about was how beautiful his wife was but than got frustrated when she was not intellectually stimulating enough for him. I think he gave Sylvia the short end of the stick. I don't think she was as dim witted as he perceived and if he would have taken the time to actually talk to her instead of muse so much about how beautiful she was than he might have noticed.
There was one incident in particular when they were at a dinner party where the host related a tale of lost love that I think illustrates my point. Reginald, through the reactions and body language of another guest at the party realized immediately that she was the lost love his host spoke of. Guess who was the only other person in attendance at that party who was able to come to the same conclusion? Reginald's wife Sylvia. I believe there was more behind her beauty than Reginald was willing to see and I believe many of their friends and acquaintances saw more to her as well but for some reason Reginald remained unseeing.
But then on the other hand Sylvia never really did much to encourage her husband to see beyond the surface.
So yes, there were many aspects of the novel that bothered me and I did find Reginald to be rather pompous at times but there was still plenty to enjoy. The book was a humorous look at how the simple lives the Wellards were living in the country was upset by Reginald's success as an author. As any one who knows me or my reading tastes knows, I like wit, charm and humor and this book had plenty of all three.
If for no other reason it was worth reading just to get a different look at Milne and his writing.


verity said...

That sounds interesting - I have been wanting to read that for a while. I have his Red house mystery - recently republished by Vintage awaiting me shortly...

Anna said...

I had no idea Milne wrote anything other than Winnie the Pooh. Thanks for bringing this one to my attention.

Diary of an Eccentric

Lit and Life said...

I didn't know that Milne wrote novels for adults either. But I'm thinking the feminist in me might be a little stronger than yours--I might just throw the book across the room!