Details: Subtitle A Cambridge Childhood; (c) 1952; Pub Faber & Faber 1977; ISBN 0-571-06742-5
Verdict: Period Piece is just delightful!
Reasons for reading it: Mum was enthusing about it. I possibly shouldn't have picked another memoir of the early part of the 20th century straight after rereading The book of Ebenezer le Page, but never mind.
How it came into my hands: I borrowed it from the parents for the trip back to Sweden. I think Mum originally found it in some charity sale.
The hook for Period Piece is that Gwen Raverat was Charles Darwin's granddaughter. But for me the point of it is that she is a wonderful writer, with a really sly sense of humour, rather than the incidental biographical information about Darwin's family. The book really made me smile, especially the author's drawings with their cute, deadpan but silly captions. It's not just an idyllic memoir of her childhood, though; a lot of the humour is sweetening quite pointed observations about both the society she grew up in and hints at the way the world changed during the 20th century. Another thing that Raverat does very well is having a very good sense of a child's perspective, while dropping enough clues that one can imagine the adults as real people even when presented through a child's eyes.
Period Piece is highly quotable. Raverat introduces the work thus:
This is a circular book. It does not begin at the beginning and go on to the end; it is all goin on at the same time, sticking out like the spokes of a wheel from the hub, which is me. So it does not matter which chapter is read first or last.And she concludes:
Now that I have certainly attained the status of Good Red Herring, I may at last be allowed to say: Oh dear, Oh dear, how horrid it was being young, and how nice it is being old and not having to mind what people think.And in between is the most delightful and witty memoir ever! It really made me feel I would have loved to know Raverat, although she is very modest and aware of her own flaws.
It seems like a very papersky sort of book, for some reason.