Customer Review

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A joyful, funny and innocent tale skillfully told, 2 Jun. 2010
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This review is from: The Good Companions (Rediscovering Priestley) (Hardcover)
The other reviewers have explained the appeal of this book very well. It is now a period piece. There can only be very few readers alive now who can remember the concert parties and pierrot troupes that slogged their way round the variety halls and end of the pier theatres of Britain in the 1920s and 1930s. I recall my late father telling me that he remembered concert parties of precisely the kind described by J B Priesltey coming to perform on Shanklin and Sandown Piers in the 1930s. He added that they were all uniformly absolutely hopeless and awful but let's forget about that.

This book is clearly set after the beginning of broadcasting and during a period of economic depression so I guess Mr J B Priestley intended readers who read the book when it came out (1929) to regard it as a contemporary story. It was a huge success at the time and when I first read it many years ago I became delightfully immersed in the lives of the three main characters and their nomadic temporary hosts (The Dinkey Doos/Good Companions). We meet well drawn good hearted characters who are fully prersented with all their many qualities and foibles affectionately painted by the author for the pleasure of his readers. As they traverse the England of the Great Depression these latterday secular pilgrims witness the gamut of English society as Priestley knew it. There is no venom in Priestley's social observations on this occasion (c.f. his later work)- although cinema owners get a mild moral drubbing. Here we are focusing on the whimsical and the comical and the absurd. Others will correct me if I am wrong but I think that just before writing The Good Companions J B Priestley undertook a journey all round the UK and produced a serious book of journalism/travel writing about the suffering and privations of the poor during the depression. In the Good Companions he uses the knowledge of the different cities and towns and regions of England that he gained on that journey but he uses it to a gentle and comic effect.

The book is in many ways a comic masterpiece and this handsome hardback edition contains well justified brief essays of praise for the book from contemporary comic writers. For some tastes the book may at times seem to have too rich a streak of sentimentality but for me at least the lightness of tone and the pace of the story telling never allows the book to become too sickly sweet.

I strongly recommend the book to one and all.

In finality I would just put a word in to whoever owns the rights to a 1980 TV musical dramatisation made by Yorkshire Television. You are sitting on a little gem of a TV series and whilst you will never get the DVD sales of a Lost or a Dr Who, you will do very respectably indeed if you issue the series on DVD.

PS written on 24th May 2013: Since writing this review nearly three years ago the TV musicial drama adaptation has become available on DVD. here is the link: The Good Companions - The Complete Series [ITV] - [Network] - [DVD]
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 10 Jun 2011 12:38:56 BDT
Last edited by the author on 7 Jul 2011 17:04:10 BDT
bayman15 says:
I agree with your review. I am currently reading the book which I discovered by accident & thoroughly enjoying it. The DVD is due for release in August 2011 The Good Companions - The Complete Series [DVD]. For some very strange reason its certification is "18" - some mistake surely?

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Jun 2011 15:17:00 BDT
M. Raynes says:
Dear Bayman, your message has made my day! I completely agree about the oddity of an 18 certificate. The TV musical drama series I recall so fondly is certainly not 18 certificate material. With best wishes and thanks. Martin

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Jun 2011 19:43:19 BDT
Alsmuse says:
Not as good as the 1933 film with Jesse Matthews perhaps (IMHO) but the serial adaptation was required viewing in our house. Can't wait for it's release. Thank you both for posting.

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Jul 2011 17:06:34 BDT
bayman15 says:
Many thanks - someone has spotted the mistake and has remarked the certificate as 'TBC'!

Posted on 10 Aug 2014 16:17:49 BDT
I enjoyed this review, and think that you capture very well the reasons for Priestley's first major success. Thank you. One of the reasons why Priestley's comedy is more gentle here is that the novel was published (in July 1929) just before the Great Crash of October, and ensuing depression. When Priestley published English Journey in 1934, his view of Britain was inevitably darker, although still filled with respect for ordinary people and therefore much more agreeable than Orwell's sneering The Road to Wigan Pier. The venom in Priestley's later works is partly due to his sense of the growing gap between rich and poor, and partly to his dismay at the disappearance of British popular culture (even the pierrot troupes), overwhelmed by American importations. Priestley's failure (in my view) to appreciate the vitality of African-American culture led to an uncomfortable display of racism in Wonder Hero of 1933, as well as in the episode in Blackpool in English Journey in the next year.

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