Warwick Deeping’s Old Wine and New is an unexpected and rather extraordinary tale about the making of a novelist in the years between the First and Second World Wars.
Timid, gentle to a fault, scarcely able to make himself a cuppa, Spenser Scarsdale is as unlikely a hero as a protagonist can be. He blunders along through life, finding almost by accident something he’s sufficiently interested in to put in the effort to make a success of it.
Scarscale serves as a medic in France, caring for victims of the trenches. As the war winds down, one dying man gives Scarsdale an envelope to deliver to his daughter. Scarsdale falls for the girl. He leads her to believe, as he does, that he’s a reasonably well-off literary gentleman.
Scarsdale is unaware that, at 45, he’s considered a washed-up editorial hack. In the post-war slump, Scarsdale loses his job, his savings, and the girl, who never was his anyway.
Scarsdale ends up renting a room from a woman who does domestic work for wealthy Londoners.
Eleanor takes Scarsdale in hand, tactfully helping him to see that he needs to write about real life. With her encouragement, advice, and occasional behind-the-scenes manipulation, Scarsdale writes a successful first novel and follows it up with a second.
Unlike the typical novelist-protagonist, Scarsdale has no passion to write. He writes because it’s the only thing he has the least bit of ability to do, and he must eat.
Deeping’s realistic characters and believable plot will delight readers. Perhaps they may even inspire a few who are blundering into middle age still wondering what they want to do when they grow up.Old Wine and New Warwick Deeping Alfred A. Knopf, 1932 387 pages 1932 Bestseller #6
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