on 2 February 2009
'Kathleen & Christopher' is a useful addition to 'the Isherwood canon'. For those interested in the man behind the books, it helps to give a more rounded view of Christopher's relationships with friends and family alike. More than that, however, it provides a useful insight into someone from his social class at a time when Britain remained in the straitjacket of class consciousness and prejudice. It is a great pity that Kathleen's letters to him do not appear to have survived.
Unfortunately, though she has generally done a good job with this collection, the editor needed to be a little more careful with her notes. In particular, her sensitivity towards, and awareness of, British history seems a little faulty. The example that is most obvious is in her attributing Neville Chamberlain's 'peace in our time' comment to a parliamentary speech. As far as I'm aware, he did no such thing; the phrase was used in a public address. Like others of the period, however, Isherwood himself seems to have been relieved that the Munich Agreement was reached. Chamberlain, of course, became a scapegoat, but the time gained enabled some preparations to be made and also made it feasible to keep the Empire on board when war did break out.
This collection is very much of the late thirties and is itself a piece of social commentary. Hence, the importance of getting those notes as perfect and as full as possible for later generations to make the period accessible.