The Chrysanthemums is a short story by John Stienbeck. It’s a atmospheric tale of a farm wife’s encounter with a travelling pots and pans repair man. Not really much happens and it’s all very understated as the theme conveys Elisa’s sense of isolation and dissatisfaction with her life.
The high grey-flannel fog of winter closed off the Salinas Valley from the sky and from all the rest of the world. On every side it sat like a lid on the mountains and made of the great valley a closed pot.
I’ve not read any Steinbeck for years and I really enjoyed this, so maybe time to re-read a couple of the novels.
During 1938 fascism was on the rise across Europe in Italy, Germany and Spain. The desperate struggle of the republican forces against Franco have been well documented in history books galore. None however actually takes you into the centre of both the military and political battlefield as does Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia. Orwell was a member of the Independent Labour Party and joined it’s sister party in Spain the POUM (Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification), when he decided to go to Spain to defend the Republic.
The pathetic lack of proper equipment, the infighting between different militias, the gradual usurping of the government by the communists is all described in superb detail. The final banning of Orwell’s POUM militia, the roundup of its members and his subsequent escape to France reads like a thriller.
I’m still reading this as the 1938 Club closes. However I’ve read it before, listened to an audiobook and watched the Fry and Laurie TV version, so it’s well known to me. It involves a silver cow creamer, Gussie Fink-Nottle, Madeleine Bassett and best of all the would be fascist dictator Roderick Spode. I love Wodehouse’s writing and this is a classic Jeeves and Wooster tale.
So farewell to 1938, it’s been good to read you!