Page 77 - PB Cat 1999-2021
P. 77

 The Crowded Street
The theme of The Crowded Street (1924) is a familiar one to Persephone readers. Muriel, who believes that ‘men do as they like’ whereas women ‘wait to see what they will do’, lives in a town in Yorkshire waiting – for what? She tries to conform to the values of her snobbish, socially ambitious mother; she tries to be ‘attractive’ to men; and eventually she is rescued, by her friend Delia, a young woman who is in some ways a portrait of Winifred Holtby’s close friend Vera Brittain and who thinks ‘that service of humanity was sometimes more important than respectability. I valued truth more highly than the conventional courtesies of a provincial town.’
Throughout the description of life in small-town ‘Marshington’, Winifred Holtby expressed her conviction that young women should be allowed to live away from home, to work, to shake off the ties that many mothers seemed to think it was their prerogative to impose on their daughters. The Crowded Street is thus about the need to withstand the tyranny of ‘sex success. Turn and twist how you will, it comes to that in the end.’ And its conclusion is that ‘the thing that matters is to take your life into
1920 printed dress silk fabric designed by George Sheringham for Seftons
your own hands and live it, accepting responsibility for failure or success. The really fatal thing to do is to let other people make your choices for you.’
The original 1924 jacket for The Crowded Street showing a village street populated entirely by women: a wood engraving by Clare Leighton, the sister of Vera Brittain’s fiancé Roland who was killed in the Great War.
 NO 76
328pp PERSEPHONE BOOKS ISBN 9781903155660

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