As its subtitle implies, Michael Arlen’s The Green Hat: A Romance for a Few People is an unconventional novel.
The story is told by an unidentified writer who meets and has sex with Iris Storm, the twin sister of Gerald Marsh, the drunk who lives above his flat.
The Green Hat: A Romance for a Few People by Michael Arlen
Robin Clark, 1991 (paper), 244 pages. 1925 bestseller #5. My Grade B.
Through mutual acquaintances narrator hears of, and occasionally sees, Iris afterwards.
He manages to piece together her story, discover why Iris and her brother were estranged, why Gerald drank, why Iris, so fastidious about most things, was careless about sex.
The mystery-romance is under-laid by the mystery of the narrator. When readers first meet him, he’s what used to be called precious: affected, pretentious, full of self-importance.
As he gets interested in untangling the Iris Storm mystery, he has no time to maintain the persona.
Readers see the narrator maturing as he watches Iris maturing.
Behind both is the childish, 1920’s overindulgence of young people who survived World War I.
Arlen has no great truths to tell, but his technique alone is worth seeing.
© 2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni