Ever since I discovered Dornford Yates I’ve had it in mind to try the world of Sapper – I bought a copy of ‘Bulldog Drummond’ about seven years ago but its contents remain a mystery to me still. This didn’t stop me finding the blurb for ‘The Female of the Species’ all but irresistible and it made all the way to my wish list where a very nice friend rescued it from limbo and presented it to me as a birthday present.
The thing that attracted me most to ‘The Female of the Species’ was that it sounded camper than a row of tents, and it’s fair to say it is that camp and more. I can’t say that it’s a great book, that it stands the test of time, that it isn’t really quite offensive in places, or that the plot is terribly convincing, but I still enjoyed it tremendously and might even bump ‘Bulldog Drummond’ up a few dozen places on my to be read list. (Although it doesn’t really do to rush these things and maybe seven years hasn’t been too long to sit on something...)
The plus side of Sapper is rip roaring adventure and action which just never stops with some nice period detail (albeit coupled with some crashing snobbery, but I like that too), enough in the way of humour and snappy dialogue to cover the bits which haven’t aged so well and a general sense of a damn good ride. The disclaimer comes with the admission that this is probably the first time I’ve ever been really uncomfortable with bad old fashioned racism in a book. Normally I’m of the opinion that the past is a different country and all that goes with that. There’s no point and no joy in judging past manners by present standards, but just occasionally something is so breathtakingly offensive that I can’t help but feel judgemental. So it is with Sapper and his attitudes regarding race, it wasn’t enough to spoil the book for me, but I’m aware that it would perhaps be more than enough to really upset a more sensitive and discerning reader.
And yet despite all that hedging and wondering I still think books like this have a definite place on my shelf, I enjoy reading them and value the little period details that make reading more ‘worthy’ books more rewarding. Mostly though it’s because I really love a good dollop of all action camp nonsense and ‘The Female of the Species’ ticked every box in that regard.
I've heard of Dornford Yates (I think I have a couple of his books sitting on my shelf - and only because he was mentioned in another book I was reading) but I haven't heard of Sapper. Interesting.ReplyDelete
Reading it really made me want to smoke gold tipped black papered Balken Sobranis cigarettes again - despite quiting over a decade ago. It's that kind of book.ReplyDelete
I read Bulldog Drummond eight years ago, or thereabouts, and I must confess that I didn't like it at all... not only for the xenophobia (I agree with you that it's often pointless to analyse old books by today's more acceptable standards) but because I loathed Drummond and wanted all of his enemies to beat him! Also the writing annoyed me... 'That worthy', rather than 'Drummond', proliferated - if I recall correctly...ReplyDelete
Still, each to their own! Glad you had fun :)
I did have fun Simon, but found it a hard book to write about because at the end of it despite having enjoyed the read I couldn't think of much that was positive to say, yet to be entirely negative when I liked the book doesn't feel right either. Drummond doesn't feature to heavily in this one which is probably a good thing.ReplyDelete
Those covers are wonderful! Even Noel Coward would have found them over the top. Dornford Yeats is no more than a name to me and I'm not sure I will be moving him to the top of my tbr list but I wouldn't mind having some of the books around just to see people's reactions.ReplyDelete
The cover (2nd) is camper than Christmas and Easter and Dorothy put together! Sounds really interesting to read. I wonder if the fact that it was racist in an opinionated way (i.e. rather than just being part of the background situation) that was so unnerving...ReplyDelete
Novel Insights - I think you're right on both counts. When I read an iffy comment from say Trollope I imagine that now we would have the same sort of ideas, but reading Sapper it felt that underneath the attitudes of the day he would be a harder man to convince about ideas of racial equality.ReplyDelete