Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Elizabeth Jenkins and the Jensen Owners' Club

I have just finished another Elizabeth Jenkins novel - her last in fact - A Silent Joy, published in 1992 when she was 86 years old. Set in 1957, among a still prosperous and servant-served upper middle class, it's a lumpy piece of work, and I probably wouldn't have finished it if I weren't on a mission.
 A Silent Joy is a rather schematic study of three kinds of love - the deep, disinterested affection of an elderly retired judge for the young daughter of a dead friend; the naked lust of said friend's widow for a dodgy wheeler-dealer; and the sweetly conventional love of a young couple (older daughter of said friend and cousin of another friend) who, in the course of the novel, get married. It is also a portrayal of the dire effects of easy divorce - in 1957! What would she have made of the situation today?
 The character development is uneven, with some of the above seriously underdrawn. In addition there's an equally uneven collection of minor characters - some well rounded, others more like caricatures inspired by Elizabeth Jenkins' (entirely laudable) loathing of 'progressive' ideas. Still, as with all of Miss Jenkins' novel, there's always something there that keeps you reading, some scenes and moments when thing come fully alive and she shows just how good she can be.
 The source of the title is The Rime of the Ancient Mariner - a marginal note in Part IV, about the moon and the stars 'that still sojourn, yet still move onward; and every where the blue sky belongs to them, and is their appointed rest and their native country and their own natural home, which they enter unannounced, as lords that are certainly expected, and yet there is a silent joy at their arrival.'
 A Silent Joy has the distinction of being the only Elizabeth Jenkins novel - perhaps the only literary novel by anyone? - to earn a notice in the newsletter of the Jensen Owners' Club. Here it is, with apologies for the white on black...

Despite appearances, this was no Mills & Boon pot-boiler but the prize-winning final book (1992) in the six decade long career of this noted author and biographer. Despite being in her late eighties when she wrote this account of life in 1950s London, she had the intelligence to put her hero in a Jensen:

 Neil had now bought a car, a Jensen 541 'R' and this was the first time he had driven Phyll in it. She had always known he was besotted with machinery, but until this morning she'd never realised that he regarded cars as if they were people. 


 Tom Mercer had been out on the drive with Neil, examining the wonders and beauties of the Jensen; now he came indoors. 


If you do come across a copy of this book, snap it up as it is collectable!

5 comments:

  1. Another author you mention who is unknown to me. But let that pass - I am just curious to know what your 'mission' was. Pray tell.

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  2. To discover and read as many Elizabeth J novels as I can.

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