Monday, 1 February 2010

Happy foreigner (Bagnold) 247

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.


  1. I really like Enid Bagnold - I loved The Squire and I really enjoyed The Loved and Envied - I have The Happy Foreigner and A Diary Without Dates on my tbr and I'm looking forward to them. Thanks for a great review - I'll know what to expect when I read The Happy Foreigner now!

  2. I haven't read any Bagnold yet - but think it was an author I will enjoy and have been looking out for copies. This one sounds particularly interesting - I can see why you wanted to read it straight away! Maybe I'll have to break my rules and buy it off the internet - though I usually restrain myself to buying my VMCs in charity shops....

  3. Rachel - I am very keen to read the rest of Bagnold now to see what they are like.

    Escaping - definitely worth breaking a ban for :)

  4. Verity, I found a copy of this yesterday at The Salvation Army for 99 cents! Because of you, I've been looking out for old green Viragos now, of which this is my first. Very excited to see that you liked it! :D

  5. Claire = that's wonderful! It is a lovely read, and a green copy too :)