March 08, 2009

Snake and Sword, Percival Christopher Wren

Cliché Gothic romance, set half in India. Sub-Beau Geste.

Bits I liked: the uniforms of cavalry troops -- I should think they needed to be over six feet and all in proportion, just to fit in the plumes and sashes. Contrast with "...the khaki kit so admirable for work (and so depressing unswanksome and anti-enlistment for play, or rather for walking-out and leisure)...". Boxing is the measure of a man, as in a Jeffery Farnol novel, but the heroine learns to box too:

it was in her heart to smite the Haddock on the lying mouth with the straight-from-the-shoulder drive learned in days of yore from Dam, and practised on the punching-ball with great assiduity.

She doesn't, though.

Several references to the desirably small extremities of an upper-class man. My lower-class imagination sniggered. Sort of tries to argue for better treatment and respect of the middle and lower classes, especially Tommies, but undermines itself by assuming that practically everything is inherited and ought to be; both the Snake and the Sword are dementias of the hero inherited, in great detail, from traumas experienced by ancestors he never met.

A cavalry funeral described; new handkerchiefs a perquisite of those close to the deceased (were they still expensive, handkerchiefs, or is this left over from centuries earlier?); and the slow funeral marches to the grave are contrasted with the merriest tune the band can play, leaving. I had thought that was a New Orleans innovation.

The Wise thank God for Work and for Sleep--and pay large premia of the former as insurance in the latter.

Project Gutenberg file #10667:Snake and Sword

So wrote clew in Fiction (20th c.).
And thus wrote others:
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