Thursday, February 06, 2014

The Winter of our Discontent and history

I'm writing about the book The Winter of our Discontent, which I'm currently reading. If it were about my life it would be titled the Winter of my Contentment. The book contains not only a different period in time but because of it I reflected on my own life.

This is an old book, published in 1961, the year I had quit Merrimack College and worked as an insurance clerk at American Mutual to discover within a day or two that university was for me rather than the unthinking filing of closed claims as a career track. 

In Sept. 1961 I went back to university only to Lowell as an English/history major. On the anniversary of Pearl Harbor that year I got engaged to my off and on high school sweetheart.

The edition I found was printed in 1964 when I had just returned from Germany, having spent two years with my husband who was in an army band. That was the start of my love affair with Europe. I returned to university much against his wishes, but with the knowledge I needed a degree to be the person I was meant to be.

The book was inexpensive by today's standards. No US price but in the UK it was 5/, New Zealand 65 cents, Australia 80 cents.

A school library somewhere, probably in the UK, had this book in its school library in September 1969. That was the time when I had been left by my soon to be ex-husband and was trying to be a good mother to my nine-month old daughter and had just returned to my job writing newsletters about business development. At that time, working mothers were considered bad mothers. Divorce, although more common than when my parents divorced, still somehow, was not the done thing. It was before women's lib. 

I'd like to think I was just ahead of my time, but during that period, getting through a day was an accomplishment--reflection wasn't in the schedule.

A JM had put his or her initials in the book and it had been sold at one time for 75 pence or so said the pencil marks noted on the upper right hand corner of one page.

Because of its age some of the pages are beige, an uneven beige more to the edges.  (I know we say yellowed, but that isn't a yellow).

The story itself shows a slower time: no cell phones, no Internet. The protagonist walks to work. He grapples with his own failure, however. I can hear my father's voice in the line the father says to his children, "Make sure you turn out the lights."

The story in the book is the battle between ethics and corruption, but not on the massive scale of say Jamie Dimon or Leonard Blankfein, today. Personal corruption on a small town basis does not have the same importance as upsetting the world economy.

The book by the Nobel Prize winner would be a wonderful read by itself, but the condition and history of that particular book adds to the pleasure. And although I love my Kindle, The Winter of our Discontent would never have provided the same pleasure as touching the history, known and unknown of this book itself. 

1 comment:

Ginger Dawn Harman said...

Very interesting! 75 pence, wounder why JM doesn't have the book. I feel a flash fiction about J.M. coming on!