Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Love on the Supertax

I’ve read some fantastic books this summer but a lot of them have been about surplus women, unhappy marriages and frankly abusive husbands. The overall effect has been slightly depressing at times (Elizabeth Von Arnim’s ‘Vera’ made me so prickly I couldn’t be nice to my partner for 2 weeks after) so in a bid to read something more cheerful and in honour of the immanent new Marghanita Laski release from Persephone I dug out ‘Love on the Supertax’.

I found this book in a charity shop in the section labelled oddities, which is a pretty fair description of it. A slim volume of not quite 130 pages published in 1944 it starts like this:

“This is a story of the spring of 1944. But it does not tell of that jocund season as you know it in Finsbury and Hoxton, where, after their days work is done, clear-eyed, confident men and women meet to discuss the Trades Disputes Act or to visit the latest exhibition of paintings by Left-Wing artists at the Klassical Kinema; nor of spring where the first warm rays of sun strike down on the bountiful barrows of Bermondsey, the colourful backyards of Shoreditch. This is not a story of that spring of 1944 as it came to strong vigorous citizens with an ample present and an assurance of the future, but of spring as it came to the needy and the dispirited, to the fallen and the dispossessed, spring as it came to Mayfair.”
which pretty accurately sets the tone for the rest of the book. Both ends of the social scale are attacked with an acid pen, the aristocracy for trying so vainly to cling on to a departed past, and working class socialists for a sort of closed shop unionism which is just as resistant to progress and change.

The heroine of the story Lady Clarissa indulges in dreams of being born poor and untitled with all the privilege and opportunity that brings, and so is delighted to meet a young worker. He is able to introduce her to the forgotten delights of enough to eat, and the wonderful certainty of public transport after the vagaries of nonexistent taxi’s. One of the funniest passages in the book is the meeting between Clarissa and the young man’s parents; it’s beautifully drawn and perhaps a bit less cruel then the rest of the book.

Eventually Clarissa ends up with the sinister Sir Hubert, the saviour of his class; a black marketer and fascist who I presume is modelled on Oswald Mosley, there were a few details that felt like Mitford references, especially to Nancy Mitford’s novels, although it’s long enough since I read them for me to be unsure of how much of a mark she was meant to be. I definitely got the impression though that Diana Mosley and her like where an intended target.

It’s a funny little book, amusing with a definite edge to it, and certainly something of an oddity compared to the other books of the period that have come my way. Well worth picking up if you find a copy and have an hour or two in which to read it.


  1. Reading so many VMCs is giving me a similar feeling; I love the sound of this book, and I found that the public library has it in the store so I have requested it :)

  2. I saw this in a shop on holiday but didn't have any change so couldn't buy it! Sounds amusing and I will look out for it in due course...but I already have two other Laskis on the TBR pile so it might be a while!

  3. This book looks wonderful, I'll have to keep an eye out... I should buy all these things which look wonderful before New Year and my book-limitation begins...

  4. I've been keeping an eye out for this for ages and have just found a copy for 1p. Delighted! and then I found your review, too - can't wait for it to arrive.