I came across The happy foreigner through the advertisements at the back of Not so quiet, and immediately ordered it from the Amazon marketplace. I know I was indifferent about the other Bagnold VMC that I had read, The squire, but the subject matter of this book appealed to me (in some ways a follow on from Not so quiet's description of ambulance driving driving on the Western front during the First World War dealing with the experiences of those driving for the the French army). I couldn't resist putting it into my bag as soon as it arrived, and devoured it in my tea and lunch breaks at work.
Partly autobiographical, this book is based on Bagnold's own experiences as a driver for the French army. The book opens with a description of the difficult circumstances under which the drivers operated - long shifts, hand-started cars, frequent punctures, on top of food shortages, freezing cold dank huts in which to live, and perpetual rain and mud. Fanny, the principle character, endures these conditions, but lives on a day-to-day basis, with little thought beyond the next day and trying to get enough sleep. One day she encounters Julien, a French Captain, who takes her out on a date, and provides escapism from the daily grind. Inevitably, the limitations of their jobs make it almost impossible to pursue the relationship, and their attempts to see each other are the main driving force behind the plot of the book. However, Fanny manages to occupy herself, and in some ways it is a very affirming book because it doesn't assume that the woman is left in limbo whilst the man is away working - the woman is able to work herself.
This was Bagnold's first novel, and I enjoyed it very much. I will be interested to see what I make of The loved and the envied which is her third and other VMC novel. Just published the once with this cover.