I am currently reading J.B. Priestley’s long- and best-selling The Good Companions, which is so enjoyable – the first book in a while that I have been eager to pick up to see what happens next. I have no idea how I happened upon it, but it has been on my list for a while, and as I mentioned last week, I finally got it from the central library stacks here – although I’m wanted to highlight so many passages, I might end up purchasing a copy anyway.
In brief, it’s a picaresque tale about a group of English entertainers between the wars. They are part of what was called a “concert party” or Pierrot troupe, but we don’t actually meet any of the original troupe until about a third through the book, that first part telling us the tales of three unlikely wanderers – an unmarried heiress of a modest income, just buried her father and sold the estate; a laid-off Yorkshire mechanic; and a restless, rather feckless former schoolmaster with literary ambitions – who all set out at the beginning of a week from their respective homes, wander on odd and unexpected paths – and end up a few days later meeting each other and the dispirited members of the Dinky Doos – soon to be renamed The Good Companions.
In this section, the former schoolmaster has been given a ride by a member of a Christian sect called the Second Resurrectionists, and ends up at their regional meeting. Since it’s Sunday, I thought you could use some religious uplift:
Mrs. Bevson-Burr, the commanding woman, came next. Her subject was Unbelief. She referred to Unbelief as if it were a very obnoxious person who was in the habit of insulting her every morning and evening. Mrs. Bevison-Burr commanded them to do all manner of things to Unbelief. She did not hold out any great hopes for them when they had done all these things. Only a few of them were wanted by Jehovah, but the least they could all do was to settle Unbelief. They were asked to remember that Unbelief and Bolshevism were one and the same. There was little more about Jehovah, to whom she referred as if he were a prominent politician staying at her country house. …
…Major Dunker followed. His themes were the Pyramids, international relations, and earthquakes.
The novel has been adapted for film and television, including a 1980 BBC serial. Here’s a rather long and interesting article on the series and the source novel – not a heady, intellectual read, but, very entertaining and, I’m finding, rich with a sort of wisdom all its own.