I have decided: a literary blog that aims to celebrate 1920s and early 1930s romance novels simply must cover Elinor Glyn. To neglect Elinor Glyn would be criminal. I plan to remedy this blog’s lack of Glyn with Six Days, first published in 1923.
Before I can delve into this book, first I feel obligated to explain the awesomeness that is Elinor Glyn as she is incredibly important to 1920s popular culture. Elinor Glyn was popular, prolific, influential, and perhaps most importantly, scandalous. Several of her books were made into silent movies with actors such as Rudolph Valentino, Gloria Swanson, and Clara Bow. She was the sort of writer I imagine others aspired to be, and what I consider to be the epitome of a romance writer.
Moving on to Six Days, my popular reprint copy and I first met at Kaleidoscope Books, in the twentieth century general fiction case. Jeff, who owns Kaleidoscope, handed me two books he thought I might like. I only handed one back. I instantly knew that Six Days was for me. Maybe it was that the lead male on the cover sort of looks like Ivor Novello, maybe it was the two small gold hearts that grace the spine of this book, but it was definitely the plot summary along with the handwritten note on the free end paper promising text “scandalous in its day” that implored me to read this book.
Elinor Glyn is simply a fabulous writer. She drew me in quickly with fun and refreshing text, as well as a heroine who liked cats. The dialogue is great, the plot moves along quickly, and it is easy to become invested in the characters. What is lacking here is discretion in the selection of plot devices. Simply put, Ms. Glyn threw everything at the wall to see what would stick. This book could very easily be several books as it changes settings and situations so often, all of which I will attempt to cover briefly.
The romance on a boat: The steamer romance! This is what drew me in, resulting in an irrational desire to read a 1920s romance novel that takes place exclusively on a boat.
The romance abroad: Attending an Ambassador’s Ball at the French Embassy is very promising in the world of jazz age romance novels. There is much gallivanting and fun. What a great read!
Two characters confined to an enclosed space: This is where the novel lost me. To say that “the plot started caving in like the dug-out which entombed our protagonists” would be horribly cliché, but I think I may have just said it. The priest on the front cover of the book quickly dies within that enclosed space, thus satisfying this novel’s quota for violence and death. After that follows several chapters of the main characters slowly dying from starvation to the point of hallucination and insanity. What, that doesn’t sound like a breezy or light romance to you? Who wouldn’t want to read about that extensively?
The misplaced letter and consequential misunderstanding: I wish I was making this up. Followed by…
The secret government mission: “Carry the Message to Garcia.”
The whoopsie baby: Is this book over soon?
And then, there is the end. Our heroine is about to marry the hero’s best friend to salvage the potential scandal of the whoopsie baby. The hero races across Europe to stop the wedding just in time, arriving on a horse. For all those who have wondered how long the interrupted wedding cliché has been in play, just know that it was well in use by the mid-1920s.
Despite my disappointment with the section of this novel which takes place beneath ground well as well as its subsequent events, I overall vastly enjoyed this book and would recommend it in a heartbeat. I’d also happily read any other novel by Elinor Glyn, and hope to add a few more of her titles to my collection at some point in the abstract future.