LOOKING AT WHAT GOES ON UNDER THE CLOTHES
Lucy lay in the warm soft water and thought happily of her breakfast. How pleasant not to have to make conversation among all those chattering voices. How imaginative and kind of that charming girl to carry a tray to her. Perhaps after all it would be nice spend a day or two among these young –
She nearly leaped from her bath as a bell began its maniacal yelling not a dozen yards from where she lay. … there was a wild rush in the corridor, the two doors to her left were flung open, and as the water cascaded into the baths a high, familiar voice was heard shrieking: “Oh, darling, I’m going to be so late for breakfast… Donnie darling I’ve left my soap behind. Do throw me over yours!”
“You’ll have to wait till I’ve soaped myself.”
“Well, my angel, do be quick…”
“Soap coming up.”
“Oh, thank you, darling. You’ve saved my life. What a nice smell, my dear. Very expensive.”
observations: This is Miss Lucy Pym being introduced to the Senior students at Leys training college, by sharing a bathroom with them.
She will become very friendly with them over a short period of time, and so times will be very hard when a student dies, and she suspects the worst about one of their number.
I recently re-read this book for the books of 1946 meme over at Rich Westwood’s Past Offences, and find myself with still more to say about it. I also picked it as one of my favourite crime reads of the year this week.
I love books set in educational establishments, and this is a particularly good example – the students and staff are very individual, fully-rounded characters. (In marked contrast to Josephine Bell’s Death at Half-Term, which I complained about recently). Nothing very criminal happens till very late on in the book – first-time readers might be somewhat mystified by the first two-thirds, which is just a (riveting, to my mind, though others may not agree) description of what happens at the college. Everybody gets very worked up about a job at ‘the best girls’ school in England’ and it is a tribute to Tey that she makes this seem as an end-of-the-world issue.
Various Tey themes appear – the importance of faces and reading them, comparing people with famous portraits – this turns up again in Daughter of Time. She even tells us, in passing, that Richard III has been sadly libelled, which is the whole point of Daughter of Time, written a few years later. She also has various characters tell us that theatre is boring and dull and no longer of any relevance – interesting when Tey herself was a highly successful playwright.
I recently blogged a top 10 list of crime novels: limiting myself to only one by any author, I chose Brat Farrar for Tey – now I’m thinking maybe this should replace it. And as I have said before, it’s surprising no-one has made a film or TV adaptation of the book.
The Japanese bath-house above doesn’t really resemble the situation Miss Pym finds herself in above, but it’s a similar idea and a great picture.