Dress Down Sunday -
what goes on under the clothes
No Grave for a Lady by John and Emery Bonett
published 1959 chapter 1
In the half-lit passage she saw the Mittel-European ‘help’ coming downstairs with hat and coat on.
‘Has everything been all right, Elsa?’
‘Yes Madame. The boy say he can have the light until you come home. Is that right, madame?’
‘Well, I didn’t say so, but he’s asleep now anyway. You’re going out?’
‘Yes please, madame. Unless you want me. I hear you come in so I get my coat. I go to the Empire, second house. My friend tell me is very good, very much for laugh.’
‘Off you go then, Elsa. Have a good time.’
Ashe heard the front door close and the footsteps dwindle along the pavement. She went into the living-room and sat on the edge of a chair so as not to seat her good grosgrain suit. The party was over now, too soon by far. And it needn’t have been. Ashe could have told Elsa she was going out again. She needn’t even have come home at all as it turned out. Automatically she undid her two back suspenders to spare her nylons and took off her hat.
observations: This could be from a serious novel of the 1950s – Ashe and her husband are publishers, and it’s a book launch she has just returned from. She is bothered by the fact that her husband has gone on out to dinner with his attractive ‘lady author’ and she - torn between child, childcare, work and marriage – fears she has missed out all round. (It could be from a novel of 2012 for that matter.)
In fact it’s a forgotten detective novel – husband-and-wife team John and Emery Bonett wrote several of them, and they are excellent, full of life and interest and great characters, as well as murder. Perhaps they were the Nicci French of their day. They deserve to be rediscovered.
We’d be willing to bet that this particular section was written by Emery, because of that detail of loosening suspenders to save the nylons. It’s an authentic detail from the time, something that would have been real to millions of women, but rarely appeared in books, and not something men would know about.
Links up with: for more Dress Down Sunday (and lots of stockings and suspenders), click on the label below. Jane Austen was very much concerned with stockings, as were the Little Women girls, and the Midwife – similar era - wore nylons to go out in.
The picture is by Berthe Morisot, from Wikimedia Commons.