H.F. Ellis comes to the blog in a re-release of stories serialized in Punch magazine, providing the story of a 1938 Headmaster of a boy’s school in England
The Papers of A.J. Wentworth, BA
If, like me, you are used to (or familiar with) British humor from the pre-war era, or have an interest in linguistic and sensibility histories – this collection will be both entertaining and informative. You’ll find plenty to laugh at and with as the somewhat hapless and frequently clueless Wentworth is an overwhelmed teacher in this upper-crust boy’s boarding school, and isn’t known to have the best control of his impulses. While presenting the stories and anecdotes, some are funny for his reactions (or overreactions) while others have a sense of a man lost in the tide as the world moves along without his input, as he desperately (and with good intent) tries to grab a sense of ‘being a part’ of it all. While the early stories focus on his years teaching before the war, and his particular difficulty with one student, the latter essays are all about his time after joining up for World War II.
As one might expect, some of the references and ‘norms’ are dated, but the general sense of human behavior isn’t changed much – and there are moments where laughter carries through both time and space and situation. While compared to a Woodhouse story, I didn’t find the quasi-condescension and attitude that is more apparent (and overblown), this truly feels more like a ‘get it off his chest while explaining his role sort of series of tales, and is all the more enjoyable for it. It’s not a book for everyone: some of the ‘british-isms’ are quite specific to the time, and hard to intuit from context, and the humor never really hits ‘slapstick’ level, but is subtly tinged with a wry sort of ‘looking back and chuckle’ sort of feeling.
BUT – that being said -I really enjoyed this little venture into Wentworth’s life and the writing of Ellis. Often it felt to me as if my relatives, the great-grands and grands, were telling stories among themselves and we were gathered around missing the ‘adult’ bits, but aware that something special was happening. Solidly presented for those interested n the England of some 75 years ago, to see how humor and language have grown and adapted to modern life, this is a book that many will read an entry and return to it a few days later for another bite.
Title: The Papers of A.J. Wentworth, B.A.
Author: H.F. Ellis
Series: The Wentworth Papers #1
Genre: British, Historic Elements, Humor elements, Literary Fiction /Historical Setting, Pre World War II, Satire, Setting: Britain
Published by: Farrago
Published on: 19 September, 2019 (Re-Release)
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ Barnes&Noble ♦ iTunes ♦ Kobo ♦ Google ♦Direct from Publisher
The classic fictional memoirs of a hapless schoolmaster.
There is chalk in his fingernails and paper darts fill the air as A.J. Wentworth, mathematics master at Burgrove Preparatory School, unwittingly opens the doors that lead not to knowledge but to chaos and confusion.
In his collected papers he sets out the truth about the fishing incident in the boot room, the real story about the theft of the headmaster’s potted plant, and even the answer to the sensitive question of whether or not Mr Wentworth was trying to have carnal knowledge of matron on that one, memorable occasion.
A comic study in blinkered English manners, the Wentworth Papers will delight fans of P.G. Wodehouse or Grossmiths’ Mr Pooter. First introduced to readers in the pages of Punch magazine, it was later dramatized for both BBC Radio and ITV drama.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: