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While E. F. Benson is best known for his comic novels of upper middle-class society, he also wrote serious novels that dealt with far greater issues than social ascendancy and the well-worded snub. Michael includes serious versions of some of the themes that appeared in Benson's comic novels--his love for German composers and a female singer whose...
While E. F. Benson is best known for his comic novels of upper middle-class society, he also wrote serious novels that dealt with far greater issues than social ascendancy and the well-worded snub. Michael includes serious versions of some of the themes that appeared in Benson's comic novels--his love for German composers and a female singer whose fondness for informality and serious musicianship are reminiscent of Olga. Benson manages to interleaf several major themes without crowding the book. The story features inter-generational conflict; the mental decline of an elderly parent; what today we would call the self-esteem issues of a physically ugly man; national identity; and the slow, inexorable buildup to World War One and the heartache it causes as loving friends realize that they will be fighting on opposite sides. Benson deals with each theme sensitively, though sometimes the late Victorian prose style is heavy-handed. Even though Benson's obvious love for Germany and German music were, if anything, a daring stance to take so close to the war that was to wipe out so many lives, modern audiences are more sensitive to easy, sweeping national generalizations like the kind that Felix makes.
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