LOOK BACK IN ANGER!
I try not to force modern opinions on older books. It’s just not fair. No matter how often I may wince, I can’t rewrite the history of social development.
That’s my first disclaimer. My second is that I am a fan of Margery Allingham’s, and I have read all her work, probably several times over.
Recently I reread THE FASHION IN SHROUDS, which I thought would be extra entertaining. I am a diehard Project Runway fan, and since this book is set in the fashion industry at least partly, I was anticipating big fun. Albert Campion’s sister, Val, is a very successful dress designer, and has single-handedly resuscitated a dying fashion house. Val has met a man, Alan Dell, who owns an airplane manufacturing company, so he’s a successful executive (and creator), too, though he is still on the rise while Val is at the top of her game. It’s worthy of note that Amanda Fitton, Campion’s future fiancé, is an engineer at Dell’s company. (Yay! A big thumbs up.)
Alan falls for the actress Georgia Wells. Her first husband’s skeleton has just been found, and during the course of the book, her current husband is murdered. That doesn’t give Alan pause. But in the course of the book, the scales fall from his eyes, and he sees what’s right in front of him. He takes Val for a walk, and here’s what he says: “. . . Will you marry me and give up your independence, the enthusiasm which you give your career, your time and your thought? . . .In return . . . I should assume all responsibility for you. I would pay all your bills to any amount which my income might afford. I would make all decisions which were not directly in your province, but on the other hand I would like to feel that I might discuss everything with you if I wanted to; but only because I wanted to, mind you; not as your right. And until I died you would be the only woman. You would be my care, my mate as in plumber, my possession if you like.”
There’s more that’s just as horrifying, but you get the idea. And Val, a capable businesswoman with an international reputation, can hardly wait to jump at this chance.
Here’s the thing: obviously Allingham herself was no one’s possession. She was a talented and celebrated writer. Her husband collaborated with her. I’ll bet he didn’t tell her not to bother her pretty little head with paying bills.
Or am I being the revisionist I have tried not to be? Does this make you wince, too?