I spent half of this morning in bed reading. One of my favourite old movies is Random Harvest, and I’d picked up a text version of it somewhere to read on my Kindle. I galloped through the last 100 odd pages.
It’s an almost unbelievably poignant and romantic book. For the type of book it is it’s actually very well written. Reading it I would often recall the movie, and saw the two main characters as they were on screen, Ronald Colman and Greer Garson (I think I wrote about the movie once). It’s a heartwarming story. There were times I had tears in my eyes. A book like this, the movie, you want to finish well, you want the happy ending, and so you hope for it. That was in my glistening eyes, an urgent desire that the two star-crossed lovers should get together again (as I knew they would). And a kind of gratitude that such things can be, that lovers might be parted under the most extraordinary circumstances, but in extraordinary circumstances find each other again. Isn’t this the world we want to live in, the life we want to lead? And so, of course, there was often a sense of wistful incompleteness. You so believe in this love, this innocent fantasy, that it’s lack suddenly bites. Suddenly you life seems bare by its absence – but then life is rarely like it is in books or in the movies. Who’s to say it can’t be though?
I finished and felt myself let out a mental sigh. It was such a pretty story. Even with the backdrop of a looming war there was something enchanting in the telling. The writing is good, but there is the sense reading that this is an old book describing outmoded times and feelings. You can’t imagine it being written today, and not just because the physical world around us has changed, but because in ways I think we have stopped thinking that way. That’s why it resonates so strongly I think, because it recalls emotions still present, but somehow superceded, or set aside. Can that be a good thing?
Hitler exists in this book – it was written in 1941 – and the coming horrors are anticipated, yet there is an innocence – and complete lack of cynicism – that is both endearing and foreign. It is populated by thoroughly decent people of the best British type – both reserved and self-effacing – that is different to most. There are no villains, everyone wants for the best, it’s just that time and tide has thwarted them – for now. Eventually the tide is turned, love wins out, and that’s the story. It’s a story worth remembering.
(There are many great old movies: The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, Goodbye Mister Chips (with Greer Garson), and so on. Great movies about very decent and ordinary people. I recall another favourite movie from around the same general period, simple but good: The Enchanted Cottage, with Dorothy Maguire. It may be coincidence that both Greer Garson and Dorothy Maguire are favourites of mine amongst the old stars – neither of them flamboyantly beautiful, but both attractive and decent, and somehow, more real than the rest. Says a lot about the women I am drawn to.)