(I just had to present this book to my class today. As it might be helpful to someone, somewhere, here are my notes)

Characters

Christopher Lloyd

Toni Barbarowski

Mrs. & Mr. Jack Lloyd

Nigel Lloyd (brother)

Mary Lloyd (sister)

Arthur

Janet

Annick

Marion

Dave & Mike

Plot

The novel depicts three different years of Christopher’s life; at sixteen, twenty-one and thirty.

His teen years are shared with Toni. Together they crowd their days with idealisms, fascination for (mostly) French writers and exercises of disdain towards the bourgeoisie.

Later, Chris goes to France when one of the biggest strikes in history is happening and does not quite take notice or part in it. He spends most of his time in Paris orbiting Annick.

At thirty, he is married (to Marion), owns a house, has a child, and a steady job. Toni has lived up to some of their early ideals and stands as a question mark to Chris’ alleged happiness.

Style

– 1st person

– Past tense / Present tense (two last paragraphs)

– Parenthesis (125, 140)

– Dialogues – (Biggest: running costs)

– Lists / Order (133)

– Repetition (rehearsing lines: 81)

– Three parts: Metroland – Paris – Metroland / Structure, format

Analysis

Metroland was “more like a concept in the mind than a place where you shopped. And so, of course, it was. As the metropolitan Railway had pushed westward in the 1880’s, a thin corridor of land was opened up with no geographical or ideological unity: you lived there because it was an area easy to get out of. The name Metroland – adopted during the First World War both by estate agents and the railway itself – gave the string of rural suburbs a spurious integrity.” (33-4)

Chris’ life runs in parallel with the growth and history of Metroland as a living allegory of the suburb. Metroland is Chris. Chris is Metroland.

1st – 1963 – les voyelles

– Toni

– Orange

2nd – 1968 – Il le voyait comme ca, c’est tout.

– Chris

– Brown

3rd – 1977 – why then should we desire to be deceived?

– Marion

– Grey

“What else are you at that age but a creature part willing, part consenting, part being chosen?” (72)

Three girls, three colors, three years, three perspectives of Metroland and of life.

The old guy in the train: “I can call you bourgeouis (…). You can’t call yourself it. It’s just not … on. I mean, it’s against all the rules.”

“Britishness”

– Paris: “sophisticated tough” (16) They admire France, but they won’t admit it: “Boutique (how we disapproved of these language imports)” (17-8) after having said “How about écrasing someone?” (17)

– Status: the Umbrella / “Sirred” (19)

– London (chapter 4): The Constructive Loaf (27-8 & 86)

– Veiled communication: human reproduction / eunuch (22-3)

– Class: association with the Erudite – latin, French, art, philosophy, biology, etc.

– Appearance: old guy in station (35-8)/ buying clothes (20) / clothes Chris x Toni (143)

– England nationality – love and hate : “despite the handicaps of being English” (32)

– Wit – the épat game, Arthur

– Repressed emotions: “a surging need to scream, which the house rules forbid (they always do), so that you lie there with your mouth open in a trembling panic…” (54)

– Dave & Mickey (108-11)

“Britishness” X “Americanism”

– Symbol of Sex: Span magazine – published by US embassy in India – 1st time they saw a real woman naked (24) / “his tendency of americanise sex” (80)

– America as a rebel: Toni goes to America, Chris goes to Paris

Academia

– Distant, cold, inaccessible teacher (23)

– School as a barrier to life: “ Life didn’t really get under way until you left school; we were mature enough to acknowledge this point. When you did get out there, you started / ‘…making Moral Decisions…’ / ‘…and Having Relationships…’ / ‘…and Becoming Famous…’ / ‘…and Choosing Your Own Clothes’”

– School as a static institution: “It all seemed remarkably static. Each year new curricula were fed us, which closely resembled the old curricula…”

– Teacher is not a job (138)

Intertextuality

Poem Voyelles by Rimbaud (Part One)

Arnolfini Wedding by Jan van Eick (Part One)

Rouen Cathedral, by Monet (Part One, 72)

Equestrian portrait of Charles I by Van Dyck (Part One)

Baudelaire à colors à sense of identity (15)

“la civilisation belge” (15) – Charles Baudelaire: game

Voltaire “Ecraser l’infame” (15): game

“Épater la bourgeoisie” (Shock the middle class) – Used by Rimbaud and Baudelaire: game

Camus – existentialist influence

A kind of loving 1962 – June Ritchie

Shakespeare and Molière – the husband ideal

Mens sana in corpora sano – About the students who joined the strike

Au Hasard Balthazar, by Bresson – First movie with Annick

Dictionnaire des Idees Recus, by Flaubert (47) – Reading at Arthur´s house

“first, suppressed edition of Madame Bovary” (93) – Chris´first kiss

L’Education Sentimentale, by Flaubert (130) – Book Chris is reading when leaving Paris

Les liaisons dangereuses, by Vadim – Before Chris´ first time

Interesting links

Different translations of Les Voyelles: http://www.wagsrevue.com/Download/Issue_3/Voyelles.pdf

The National Gallery: http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/

London in literature: http://www.publibook.com/librairies/publibook/images/4019d.pdf

Article on Rimbaud and Verlaine: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/features/verlaine-and-rimbaud-poets-from-hell-525605.html

History of Maps of London Railway: http://homepage.ntlworld.com/clivebillson/tube/tube.html#1963

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