Monday, 17 August 2009

Over the frontier (Smith)

Having loved Novel on yellow paper, and not particularly enjoyed The holiday, I was intrigued to see whether or not I would like Over the frontier. This picks up the story of Pompey which began in Novel on yellow paper, and is again strongly autobiographical. Pompey gets ill after her love affair with Freddie ends, and goes off to Germany for six months rest and recuperation. The book at this stage becomes quite unreal and dreamlike, and turns into a sort of spy story, which I found quite weird and not hugely easy to follow. The whole book, which was written in 1936, is strongly overlaid with militaristic overtones.

Like the other Smith novels, it is not terribly linear, and there are diversions such as this, when Pompey is lying on the bed and looking around the room:
"First of all I must think about the Lion Vase that is no longer upon the mantelshelf...This animal, this lion, (I will describe for you), he is walking round the base of the base. He has puffed out the pads of his paws. With great precision he places them upon the ground..."

There is poetry, both her own, and of other poets. And extract from a military memoir "to which Aunty Lion and I are so partial".

Overall, I wasn't hugely wowed by this book - I enjoyed it a bit more than The holiday, but by no means as much as Novel on yellow paper. So if you haven't read any of Smith's novels before, I would counsel you to try that one.

I had this book from the library; there is just the one VMC cover:


  1. I've now officially decided Stevie Smith is not for me! This book sounds like something I'd hate!!

  2. I really must read Pompey's first outing but I doubt I'll read the second. Well done though for completing another VMC writer!

  3. I would still recommend Novel on yellow paper, I just didn't enjoy the rest of my Stevie Smith experience very much!