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Henry Green: Living

Despite the only one letter change, this is a different book from Loving. It is primarily set in a factory in Birmingham, presumably based on Green’s family factory. However, like its predecessor, it is concerned with upstairs v. downstairs, in this case management and staff at the factory and also with language. Playing with language is, of course, one of the key preoccupations of 20th century writers. Green does two things. Firstly, he arbitrarily drops articles (both definite and indefinite) in certain places. This may well be in imitation of his model, C M Doughty, though it reminds me of the Austrian writer Marianne Fritz and, frankly, is annoying. Secondly, he makes great attempts to imitate the speech of the people of Birmingham. Brummagem is an ugly accent by any standards but, while his attempts may have been, in his own mind, successful, it does not work for me.

So now that I have got that out of the way, what is this book about? It tells the story of what is going on at the factory, both from the management and worker point of view. The owner, old Mr. Dupret, is dying and does die during the course of the book and his young and inexperienced son is taking over. As in most such situations, management is completely out of touch with the workers, leading to considerable grumbling and discontent. We also see the lives of some of the workers including, in particular, the failed elopement of Lily Gates and Bert Jones. But, as with Loving, I could not get excited about this book.

Publishing history

First published 1929 by The Hogarth Press