top of page
DSCN4126.JPG
  • Writer's pictureHabranthus

With Malice Towards Some

Updated: Jul 14



Margaret Halsey


1938

Simon and Schuster


Fiction


278 pages to put you to sleep.



Overview

Very boring account of one American woman’s experience in England.






Summary

A woman from New York accompanies her husband to England where he has been hired as a guest professor at a small college in Devonshire. They arrive early and spend the summer months touring England and take a side trip to Stockholm and Oslo. They rent a house in a nearby town and settle down for the academic year. They go to Paris for Christmas.


Review

The story is written in diary format and is a daily account of the places the couple visits and the people they encounter. There is no juicy gossip, nor one single subplot. The only shred of drama is if she will find a rent-house that suits her. The book feels like scrolling through Facebook – mildly entertaining, but when you put it down, you realize you’ve wasted your time.


The whole book was written as a critique of all things English – the weather, the food, the fashion, the conversation, the customs, etc. The critique is generally unfavorable, although done with plenty of good-natured humor. For example, she describes women’s clothing as “…universal ineptitude, no eye for line and no feeling for color”, dressing “as if their bodies were something that had to be smuggled through customs”.


The story ends when the woman quits writing the diary because her husband needs her help with his manuscript, but I am sure the author got as bored writing it as we were reading it.


And what is with the title? After reading the book, 'with malice towards some' sounds like repressed anger. Probably toward her husband for dragging her to that godforsaken country.


To the author’s credit

She is quite witty. There are some good lines and she writes with humor, and the main character does not come across as snobbish or condescending (at least to Americans). To be fair, she included some critic on the U.S., for example, by mentioning race riots and the issue of lynching.


To the author’s discredit

The story is very boring. There is nothing of substance to keep a reader engaged except mild amusement with the hope that it will get better. It doesn’t.


Best line

She is a small and dynamic woman whose manner suggests very clearly that life had better watch its step, or she will take down its little pants and spank.


Honorable Mentions

The Warden...was being gracious on all eight cylinders.


Brontosarian furniture, with a dark, primeval finish


When trying to make a hotel reservation: He is going to let us know, which sounds as dubious as it does when you are applying for a job.


... a four-inch coating of aristocratic indifference.


...a table which looks as if Pithecanthropus Erectus might come crawling out from under it at any moment.”


Have noticed English fond of talking of England as if it were size of North America.


The author used plenty of uncommon words. I’m not sure if they were more familiar in 1938, or if she was just trying to exert herself as a sophisticated writer.

A Sample:

Flotsam – floating debris from a ship wreckage

Jetsam - ship wreckage debris that sinks

Paragon – model of excellence

Slattern – untidy, dirty woman or prostitute

Alacrity – cheerful readiness

Ennui – boredom

Stevedore– person who works loading/unloading ships in port

Avarice – greediness

Draggled – made wet and dirty by dragging (she was describing food)

Boor – a rude and insensitive person


I bought the book because of the title

With Malice Towards Some, which sounds a little threatening, like a murder mystery or a vengeful plot. I admire her for it, as I myself have considered that a clever title may be a good way to catch people off guard and get them to buy my book.













23 views2 comments

2 Comments


Guest
Sep 29, 2021

😫

Like

Guest
Sep 29, 2021

Too bad it was so boring.

Like

a shout out to writers long gone

Antique Book Review

bottom of page