10 British Novels from the 1930’s

10 British Novels from the 1930’s

Hello and welcome to my channel.
And welcome to a Sunday Morning Meet-Up in which I discuss 10 British Novels from the
1930’s. The 10 novels I have picked represent each
year of the 1930’s from 1930 to 1939. Book number one was published in 1930:
Rogue Herries by Hugh Walpole is the first book in the Herries Chronicle. The Herries Chronicle comprises Rogue Herries,
Judith Paris, The Fortress and Vanessa. Two later Herries books were The Bright Pavilions.
After having read and enjoyed the first book in this series set in the Lake District where
my wife and I have holidayed several times, I thought that I was set to enjoy the rest
of the series, but Judith Paris turned out to be a huge disappointment. It was just so
dull, prosaic and boring that I DNF’d it and then took the whole lot to a charity shop. Described on its first publication by John
Buchan as the finest English novel since Jude the Obscure, Rogue Herries tells the story
of the larger than life Francis Herries who uproots his family from Yorkshire and brings
them to live in Borrowdale where their life is as dramatic as the landscape surrounding
them. Proud, violent and impetuous he despises his first wife, sells his mistress at a county
fair and forms a great love for the teenage gypsy Mirabell Starr. Alongside this turbulent
story, runs that of his son David, with enemies of his own, and that of his gentle daughter
Deborah with placid dreams that will not be realised in her father’s house.
I can thoroughly recommend this first book in the series. The biggest mistake that the
author made in my opinion was to kill off the most interesting character he had created:
Rogue Herries. It just all goes downhill after that. But what happens in Rogue Herries is…
but you will have to read the novel to find out. Other British Novels published in 1930 include: The Water Gypsies by A. P. Herbert,
Cakes and Ale by W. Somerset Maugham, Angel Pavement by J.B. Priestley,
And Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh. Book number two was published in 1931:
Murder at School by James Hilton. Murder at School deals with the phenomenon
of coincidence by posing the question of how likely it is that two brothers attending the
same boarding school meet with two separate accidental deaths—and curious ones at that—within
the same schoolyear. In the manner typical of the Golden Age whodunnit, the solution
is only presented in the final pages of the novel. Throughout the book, an amateur sleuth
and a Scotland Yard detective vie with each other to solve the riddle, with only one of
them successful in the end. Murder at School remained Hilton’s only detective
novel. He is better known for Lost Horizon and Goodbye Mr Chips which was made into a
superb film starring the marvellous actor Robert Donat. Other British Novels published in 1931 include: Mapp and Lucia by E. F. Benson,
Hatter’s Castle by A. J. Cronin, which was the debut novel of this author. He is better
known for The Citadel and also for Country Doctor which was adapted for British Radio
and Television as the much-loved Dr Finlay’s Casebook,
Afternoon Men by Anthony Powell, the debut novel of the author best known for his twelve-volume
Dance to the Music of Time, And The Waves by Virginia Woolf, her most
experimental novel. Book number three was published in 1932: Brave New World is a dystopian novel by English
author Aldous Huxley, written in 1931 and published in 1932. Largely set in a futuristic
World State of genetically modified citizens and an intelligence-based social hierarchy,
the novel anticipates huge scientific developments in reproductive technology, sleep-learning,
psychological manipulation, and classical conditioning, that are combined to make a
utopian society that goes challenged only by a single outsider The novel is often compared
to George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and has tended to be overshadowed by this more
famous work but I prefer Brave New World. Other British Novels published in 1932 include:
Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons, Stamboul Train by Graham Greene
The Narrow Corner by W. Somerset Maugham, And Black Mischief by Evelyn Waugh. Book number four was published in 1933: The Forbidden Territory was Dennis Wheatley’s
first published novel and was an instant success. It was translated into a number of languages
and Alfred Hitchcock quickly bought the film rights.
The Duke de Richleau receives a letter that is a code from his missing friend the young
American Rex Van Ryn who, while hunting for treasure lost during the Soviet takeover of
Russia, is now in prison somewhere in that vast country. He shares the letter with another
young friend, Simon Aron, who agrees to accompany him to search for their friend.
His prolific output of thrillers and occult novels made him one of the world’s best-selling
authors from the 1930s through the 1960s. I have read a fair number of Wheatley’s
novels. I was particularly enamoured of his 12 volume Roger Brook series. Other British Novels published in 1933 include:
Two Black Sheep by Warwick Deeping, Lost Horizon by James Hilton,
The Shape of Things to Come by H.G. Wells, And Flush, A Biography by Virginia Woolf,
which is a biography of Elizabeth Barret Browning’s Cocker Spaniel. Book number five was published in 1934:
Thank you, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse is the first of the full-length novels about Jeeves
and Bertie Wooster. After a falling-out concerning Bertie’s relentless
playing of the banjolele, Jeeves leaves his master’s service and finds work with Bertie’s
old friend, Lord “Chuffy” Chuffnell. Bertie travels to one of Chuffy’s cottages in Somersetshire
to practise the banjolele without complaints from neighbours. Chuffy hopes to sell his
dilapidated manor to the rich J. Washburn Stoker. Mr Stoker plans to rent out the property
to the famous “nerve specialist” (or, as Bertie prefers, “loony doctor”) Sir Roderick Glossop,
who intends to marry Chuffy’s Aunt Myrtle. Chuffy has also fallen in love with Mr Stoker’s
daughter, Pauline Stoker, a former fiancée of Bertie, but feels unable to propose to
her until his finances improve. Of course, Bertie comes up with his usual
fool-proof plan, which as usual, backfires. And so, the plot thickens and to find out
what happens next you will have to read the story. Other British Novels published in 1934 include: Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie,
I Claudius by Robert Graves, Goodbye Mr Chips by James Hilton,
And Burmese Days by George Orwell, Book number six was published in 1935:
National Velvet by Edith Bagnold was made into a famous film starring the 12-year-old
Elizabeth Taylor and Mickey Rooney. National Velvet is the story of a 14-year-old
girl named Velvet Brown, who trains and rides her horse, named The Piebald, to victory in
the Grand National steeplechase. The novel focuses on the ability of ordinary
people, particularly women, to accomplish great things. Velvet is a teenager in the
late 1920s, living in a small English coastal village in Sussex, dreaming of one day owning
many horses. She is a high-strung, shy, nervous child with a delicate stomach. Her mother
is a wise, taciturn woman who was once famous for swimming the English Channel; her father
is a butcher. Velvet’s best friend is her father’s assistant,
Michael Taylor, whose father – as Mrs. Brown’s swimming coach – helped her cross the channel.
Michael formerly worked in stables and is familiar with the horse racing world. One
day they both watch The Piebald jump over a five-foot-high cobbled fence to escape a
field. Michael remarks that “a horse like that would win the National”. Velvet becomes
obsessed with winning the horse in an upcoming raffle and riding him to greatness.
To find out what happens next you will have to read the novel. Other British Novels published in 1935 include: The House in Paris by Elizabeth Bowen, The Stars Look Down by A. J Cronin, Regency Buck by Georgette Heyer, And Mr Norris Changes Trains by Christopher
Isherwood. Book number seven was published in 1936:
Eyeless in Gaza by Aldous Huxley. The novel focuses on the life of socialite
Anthony Beavis, but it does so by employing a non-chronological structure. It juxtaposes
four periods of Beavis’ life, from the time that he is a young boy in the 1890s up until
1936. The novel describes Beavis as he goes through school, college and various romantic
affairs, while probing the meaningless lives of the upper-class during the same period.
The novel depicts Beavis’ own gradual disillusionment with high society, brought to a head by the
suicide of his friend. At this point, he begins to search for some source of meaning in his
life, which seems to be provided when he discovers pacifism and then mysticism.
And what he discovers is…but you will have to read the novel to find out. Other British Novels published in 1936 include: Fire Over England by A.E.W. Mason who is best
known for his novel The Four Feathers. Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier, A Gun for Sale by Graham Greene, And Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell.
Book number eight was published in 1937: The Citadel is a novel by A. J. Cronin, which
was ground-breaking in its treatment of the contentious theme of medical ethics. It has
been credited with laying the foundation in Great Britain for the introduction of the
NHS, the National Health Service, a decade later. In the United States, it won the National
Book Award for 1937 novels, voted by members of the American Booksellers Association. For his fifth book, Dr Cronin drew on his
experiences practising medicine in the coal mining communities of the South Wales Valleys,
as he had for The Stars Look Down two years earlier. Specifically, he had researched and
reported on the correlation between coal dust inhalation and lung disease in the town of
Tredegar. He had also worked as a doctor for the Tredegar Medical Aid Society at the Cottage
Hospital, which served as the model for the National Health Service. Cronin once stated in an interview, “I have
written in The Citadel all I feel about the medical profession, its injustices, its hide-bound
unscientific stubbornness, its humbug … The horrors and inequities detailed in the story
I have personally witnessed. This is not an attack against individuals, but against a
system.” In October 1924, Andrew Manson, an idealistic,
newly qualified doctor, arrives from Scotland to work as assistant to Doctor Page in the
small (fictitious) Welsh mining town of Drineffy. He quickly realises that Page is unwell and
disabled and that he has to do all the work for a meagre wage. Shocked by the unsanitary
conditions he discovers, Manson works to improve matters and receives the support of Dr Philip
Denny, a cynical semi-alcoholic who, Manson finds out in due course, took a post as an
assistant doctor after having fallen from grace as a surgeon. Resigning, he obtains
a post as assistant in a miners’ medical aid scheme in ‘Aberalaw’, a neighbouring coal
mining town in the South Wales coalfield. On the strength of this job, Manson marries
Christine Barlow, a junior school teacher. What happens next is…but you will have to
read the story to find out. Other British Novels published in 1937 include:
Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie, Theatre by W. Somerset Maugham, Busman’s Holiday by Dorothy L. Sayers, the
last novel featuring Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. The Years by Virginia Woolf, the last novel
published by her during her lifetime. Book number nine was published in 1938:
Brighton Rock is a novel by Graham Greene. The novel is a murder thriller set in 1930s
Brighton. The title refers to a confectionery traditionally sold at seaside resorts, which
in the novel is used as a metaphor for the personality of Pinkie, which is the same all
the way through. Charles “Fred” Hale comes to Brighton on assignment
to distribute cards anonymously for a newspaper competition. The antihero of the novel, Pinkie
Brown, is a teenage sociopath and up-and-coming gangster. Hale had betrayed the former leader
of the gang Pinkie now controls, by writing an article in the Daily Messenger about a
slot machine racket for which the gang was responsible. Ida Arnold, a plump, kind-hearted
and decent woman, is drawn into the action by a chance meeting with the terrified Hale
after he has been threatened by Pinkie’s gang. After being chased through the streets and
lanes of Brighton, Hale accidentally meets Ida again on the Palace Pier, but eventually
Pinkie murders Hale. Pinkie’s subsequent attempts to cover his tracks and remove evidence of
Hale’s Brighton visit lead to a chain of fresh crimes and to Pinkie’s ill-fated marriage
to a waitress called Rose, who unknowingly has the power to destroy his alibi. Ida decides
to pursue Pinkie relentlessly, because she believes it is the right thing to do, as well
as to protect Rose from the deeply disturbed boy she has married.
What happens next is… but you will have to read the novel to find out. Other British Novels published in 1938 include: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, The Black Book by Lawrence Durrell, Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis,
And Scoop by Evelyn Waugh. Book number ten was published in 1939: How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn. The novel is set in South Wales during the
reign of Queen Victoria. It tells the story of the Morgan’s, a respectable mining family
of the South Wales Valleys, through the eyes of one of the sons, Huw Morgan. Huw’s academic ability sets him apart from
his elder brothers and enables him to consider a future away from the dangerous coal mines.
His five brothers and his father are miners. After his eldest brother, Ivor, is killed
in a mining accident, Huw moves in with his sister-in-law, Bronwen, with whom he has always
been in love. One of Huw’s three sisters, Angharad, marries
the wealthy mine owner’s son – whom she does not love – and the marriage is an unhappy
one. She never overcomes her clandestine relationship with the local minister. Huw’s father is later killed in a mine explosion.
After everyone Huw has known either dies or moves away, and the town is reduced to a contaminated
shell, he decides to leave, and tells the story of his life just before going away.
What he narrates is…but you will have to read the novel to find out. Other British Novels published in 1939 include: Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood, Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce, At Swim Two-Birds by Flann O’Brien, And Coming Up For Air by George Orwell. So, that’s all folks. But I’ll be back soon with another BookTube

10 thoughts on “10 British Novels from the 1930’s

  1. I recall seeing that Elizabeth Taylor adaptation of National Velvet at some point when I was a teenager, but I don't recall much about it. I haven't read the book. Have a lovely Sunday!

  2. Hello Alan.  That was quite an interesting list of books.  I have read The Waves, which I didn't care for at all.  I enjoyed Brave New World very much, but than again Huxley is a favorite author of mine.  As usual, this was a very interesting discussion, thank you.

  3. Wow, looks like I could spend my whole life just reading books from the thirties!
    I've enjoyed the Dennis Wheatley books I've read … wonderfully dated. There's an interesting BBC documentary about him on YouTube ('A Letter to Posterity').

  4. This was such a fruitful time for British fiction. I’ve read several of the books you mentioned. Too many to list all of them. However, I think this is the first time I’ve seen A.J. Cronin mentioned on book tube. A long time ago there was a BBC series of The Citadel. I think Ben Cross played the young doctor. After watching it I tracked down and read several of Cronin’s other books.

  5. I don't know much about How Green Was My Valley but the title has always been familiar to me. I thought it was an American classic like To Kill a Mockingbird. Something about the titles made it seem to me that they were from the same area. I'll have to read this BRITISH classic 😊

  6. I really enjoy this series in showing which authors were writing at the same time in history, there are often surprises. The only one I’ve read is The Waves and to be honest I can’t remember much about it as it was twenty five years ago, time for a reread perhaps.

  7. I read Brave New World but prefer 1984 unlike you, Alan. I might have to reread the first though since I read it years and years ago in German. Thank you, Jeeves just recently came onto our shelves and I'm hoping to get to it during Jeeves July. 🙂

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