By Stevie Smith
I rather like Pompey Casmilus, the narrator of this slightly off-kilter stream of consciousness novel, which in Stevie Smith’s opinion makes me a “foot-off-the-ground” sort of person. Not only is this a jolly good thing to be, but it is wholly necessary if one is to fully appreciate her exuberant chatter.
This was Smith’s first novel, printed in 1936, and could perhaps be described as a frenetic, not quite fictional, ingeniously funny memoir. The sagacious Pompey (secretary to magazine publisher, Sir Phoebus Ullwater) confabulates on topics as diverse as sex, The Church, Nazism, single women, death, matrimony and oh so much more. She discusses and analyses the people in her life – characters quite obviously based on Smith’s actual friends and relatives – and leaves the reader feeling altogether exhilarated, enervated and not infrequently bewildered.
I expect people either love or loathe this book. I loved it!
NB The text is peppered with German words and expressions (Latin and French, too), but this wasn’t a problem for me because my Kindle offered instant translation.