The Books Time Forgot #3: So Well Remembered
I'll admit, I only picked this book up because the title struck me as ironic. I had no idea that it had once been made into a movie--I knew nothing of it, but the irony stuck when everyone I asked, young or old, said that they'd never heard of it, either.
So I bought this and another, The Rich Little Poor Boy by Eleanor Gates (which I may or may not be reviewing next) with the hopes that it might be an entertaining read. And man, I was not disappointed.
As stated before, this book was published in 1945, the author having written it from England during the second World War, having already witnessed the first one. These wars were obviously a big influence on the book, outside and in.
As some people know, if one wants to judge from what time period a book is, the thickness/thinness of the pages is a huge giveaway. During wars, many objects and household items were being used to great extent, and paper is no exception, and so you can bet that if a book was published during a war or a low time in the country's economy, the pages are going to be extremely thin.
Since this book was published near the end of the war, however, the pages are not as thin as some of those found published between 1940 and 1944.
James Hilton was born in England, where this story (So Well Remembered) was set, and at the young age of 20 published his first novel, Catherine Herself.
He was married twice and divorced twice, first to Alice Brown and second to Galina Kopinek.
Hilton studied at Cambridge and achieved an honors degree in English.
The author ended up dying, unmarried, of liver cancer in 1954 at the age of 54.
His pride in his country is obvious in most of his work, including So Well Remembered, but he also references some of the darker aspects of society as a whole.
He may be remembered most for his two works, Lost Horizon and Goodbye, Mr. Chips.
This book features George Boswell, a charming, small-town council man who just wants to make his hometown, Browdley, the best it could possibly be. He entangles both his life and his career with the young Livia Channing when he marries her, despite her family's reputation for criminal acts and drama.
So Well Remembered is hard to put into words, but it follows the lives of English citizens and remarks on many philosophical points, such as the fragility of the psyche and the effects of bad parenting.
The story centers around George Boswell, who proves that optimism can both help and hinder a person in both personal and public affairs.
While his optimism acts as a magnet to draw people in, it also fogs his vision as it makes him see the best in people, even when he should at the least acknowledge the worst.
This story also references the human psyche and implies that effects bad parenting can have a lasting effect, harmful to those close to the child in question.
Throughout the book is a series of conversations and talks of psychology and philosophy, but to me, these two themes ring out the most, partially because they are personified in two of the main characters and partially because they are simple so understand.
There's so many ideas packed into this book that I know most of it has sailed over my head, and it will warrant a revisit when I've expanded my mind a little more. Still, I found the book extremely thought provoking, and its themes (that I've caught) are easily understood and relatable.
Characterization is one of the most important aspects to a story (in my opinion) and Hilton does this brilliantly, paralleled in my mind only to the great Fitzgerald for creating captivating, real characters that one could feel they were in a room, having a discussion with.
Typically flash-backs are messy and simply take up time, but Hilton constructs the book so cleverly that one begs for flashbacks to simply find out the many mysteries that the book hides.
The hidden secrets and reveals are done spectacularly, and I had to put the book down a few times, gaping like a fish in shock.
George is extremely likable and the character of Livia (Olivia Channing) is simply fascinating.
Overall, So Well Remembered is a heartbreaking and realistic novel dealing with seemingly real people, from real times, in a real, gritty, complicated world. It's a quick read and well worth it. I'm actually surprised it's not considered more of a classic. It was a pleasant surprise and one I will definitely revisit sometime in the future.