In Somerset Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge, the author plays himself as the personal narrator. One character, anxious to please, told Maugham how much she enjoyed reading his novel Mr Perrin and Mr Traill. A quick Google search revealed this to be by Hugh Walpole, an author I had never read. I rarely read my friend’s suggestions, and rarely read reviews. Instead, I allow authors themselves to mention books in their stories and I immediately put these on my To Read List. This has worked well in the past. For example, in Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, there is a mention of A Sportsman’s Notebook by Ivan Turgenev. As a result I discovered an author I had heard of and assumed to be a second-rate Tolstoy. But Hemingway had taste – Turgenev is brilliant.
Anyone with a romantic notion that education was better in the past will have their beliefs shaken here. The story takes place at Moffat’s, a stifling, poorly-led school in Cornwall around 1910. The title suggests the story is about two people but in fact it’s about Mr Perrin and what happens when maturity is combined with disappointment. The prose style has a light, humorous undercurrent and this lolls the reader into assuming it will stay like that. However, it slowly turns into something much darker.
I’d be interested to hear of recommendations for other Walpole novels.