on 30 April 2011
If you enjoy subtle ironic self-deprecating humor and you love writers who can paint pictures with words you'll probably love this little story. I read it for the first time this last week and laughed all the way through. Huxley had a keen understanding of human nature. I'd compare the book to one of Pieter Bruegel's paintings. It's set in the countryside (at a house party) and is full of people just doing what they normally do. If you only glance at it, it doesn't seem to have much going on, but if you look closer at how the characters are interacting you find it seething with humanity and humor. I don't generally enjoy early 20th century "literature" because most of it is just so depressing, but this was lovely! For the first time in a long time I finished a book and wished I could meet the characters.
If you love reading great dialogue, the timing, cadence and rythm are brilliant! If this hasn't been made into a movie, it should be.
on 17 September 1999
At first glance, quite an unassuming plot - take a big country house, fill it with 20's socialites, and make a novel out of it. But Huxley provides more than enough intrigue to keep the pages turning. A most agreeable first novel, and Huxley is extraordinarily insightful; he was only in his mid-twenties when this work was conceived (contains the "bottle-breeding" idea which later resurfaces in "Brave New World").
Read "Antic Hay" next, for a more heady, urban mix of 20's culture, ideas and passion.
on 21 June 2005
Although best remembered for his "Brave New World", Huxley first established himself in literary circles with his 1921 novel, "Crome Yellow". This is Huxley, if not quite the outcast, certainly the detached commentator, able to sit back and observe his society in action.
Huxley would always be something of an outsider - though born into a wealthy family in 1894, his life would be disrupted, first by the death of his mother when he was 14, then by illness, when he was 16, which left him blind for over a year and seriously limited his eyesight for the rest of his life. The illness had enduring effects - Huxley did not serve in the First World War, so was distanced from the survivors of his generation who made it back. The illness also prevented him from entering a career in pure science.
"Crome Yellow" is a charmingly cruel dissection of a society attempting to recover from the 1914-18 war, a war which had swept away the social fabric of Europe. Crome is a large country house which attracts the English upper classes and pseudo intelligentsia. We follow the experiences of young Denis Stone, a would be poet, as he watches the other guests.
"Crome Yellow" is a comedy, a satire of class and the pretensions and lotus eating assumptions of a class which is losing its role and its function and growing increasingly out of touch with the modern world. It presents amusing portraits and enjoyable anecdotes about life in a country house. Stylistically, however, it is dated, and the reader may find many of its references and allusions are obtuse. An interesting rather than a captivating read.
on 16 September 2009
My previous reading of Huxley was his most famous novel "Brave New World" and his most famous non-fiction "The Gates of Perception/ Heaven and Hell", neither of which had imbued me with any great enthusiasm for his work. I knew "Crome Yellow" by reputation as a cynical and biting satire of the 1920s leisure classes in England, so I decided to give it a go. It was also the book that made Huxley's name. It was published in 1921, his first novel, when he was 27.
The novel is set over a weekend at the stately home of Crome. The character through whose eyes we see most of the action is Denis, a 23-year-old aspiring poet, well-educated and intelligent but not much versed in the ways of the world. He loves Anne, niece of the owner of Crome, but she regards him as a mere boy. Denis, though sensitive and articulate, is rather a Prufrockian character, and aware that the world does not take him as seriously as he would like. Like Prufrock, he suspects that he is: "At times, indeed, almost ridiculous/ Almost, at times, the fool." He admires himself in his white flannel trousers and is put out when Anne tells him he looks "perfectly sweet" in them. Is it a coincidence that Prufrock says in Eliot's poem: "I will wear white flannel trousers/ And walk upon the beach?" I think it is possible also that Denis is in part a portrait of Huxley's own younger self. In any case, I found him to be a sympathetic and amusing character.
Another notable character is Mr. Scogan, an odd little man who holds forth in an extraordinary manner on various subjects. His speeches contain many interesting ideas, presented preposterously, but the roots of many of Huxley's later serious philosophical speculations are contained here. Mr. Scogan's appearance at Crome Fair as a fortune teller in the later part of the book is also a comic highlight.
"Crome Yellow" is a short book, 173 pages in my old Penguin Modern Classics edition, but I found it to be hugely entertaining. It is a very funny book, which I wouldn't have suspected from my previous reading of Huxley; it is also completely cynical, yet rather affectionate in an understated way, deeply intelligent, very well-observed, and simply a joy to read. It could perhaps be compared to early Evelyn Waugh, also I suspect Flann O'Brien's "At Swim-Two-Birds" was influenced by it (Huxley is name-checked in the opening pages of "At Swim"). In short, I would highly recommend this book, which presents a completely different side to Aldous Huxley from that seen in his more well-known works.
on 27 January 2013
It is a book about nothing and nothing really happens there. Some people get together in a country house and pretend to have fun. That's it.
It is amazing how rich such nothing can be! It can be a philosophical treatise, a sermon, a funny short story, a tragedy and romance. And it is - it is all of these things.
The book is not particularly good overall - it is a hodgepodge of a little bit of everything. But, oh my, you really can see the beginnings of a literary genius! It was Huxley's first published novel - he was a kid of 25 then, so there's no surprise that the novel is not of top quality. But even then and there he wrote some of the best paragraphs I have ever seen. It is a strange, uneven book, sometimes almost boring, at other times totally captivating. Three stars for the quality and another on the top of that for the opportunity to see the genius in development
on 6 July 2016
A beautiful comedy of manners. Perfect period upper crust humour. I found this because it was mentioned in a Barbara Pym novel (by the anti-heroine). I understand why Barbara Pym mentioned it - and also why she gave it to her shallow and narcissistic anti-heroine. Splendid stuff.
on 14 December 2010
Crome Yellow is holiday reading rather than heavyweight Huxley; it is his debut novel written in his twenties, set in the twenties and is funny, witty and clever.Aspiring novelist and poet Denis journeys on a slow stopping train to stay with a group of guests at Crome Yellow, a country seat somewhere midway between E.M.Forster and P. G. Wodehouse in character. The substance of the novel consists in the ironic conversations and interactions between a very mixed group of guests. His hosts are aristocratic inheritors of an ancient estate, Henry Wimbush and his wife Priscilla. He runs the estate and bores people with its long history, which involves such characters as the tragic dwarf Sir Hercules who commits suicide after giving rise to progeny of a more usual size; Sir Ferdinando who ate seven dozen oysters in one day and three spiritual sisters who pretend not to eat at all. Priscilla used to gamble on horses and lose but now she uses her interest in astrology to cast the horoscopes of the runners and has begun to win. She aspires to do the same for entire football teams. Amongst the younger guests is the enigmatic Jenny who apparently hears things when she wants to. She also keeps a "little red book" (Private-not to be opened!) in which Denis finds devastatingly accurate caricatures and cartoons of the group,including himself.There is the glamorous Wimbush niece Anne, who Dennis falls for but who doesn't fall for him although she does admire him in his white flannels.She is a little ambiguous in her deployment of affection. The dashing socialite Ivor (bright yellow car with green leather upholstery) is in with a chance. He plays the piano a little, paints and sings a little, romances Anne a little but ends up with the plainer Mary. She reads Havelock Ellis and takes such things seriously. But for Ivor "...'women are wonderfully the same; shapes vary a little, that's all....in Spain ...one can't pass them on the stairs.....In England they're tubular. But their sentiments are always the same'" Anne also admires the dark Provencal painter Gombault. Much to the disgust of Denis, Gombault paints her portrait, dances and swims with her. "...'do you think' asked Denis hesitatingly, 'that that Gombault.?'.....'I'm sure of it' Mary answered decisively..."
The older guests give Denis unwanted advice about everything. Scogan the intellectual, looking like an extinct saurian, tells him how not to write a first novel and knows all there is about Art, Literature, History and Philosophy. The light novelist and journalist Barbeque-Smith, admired and read by Priscilla advises Denis to do what he does when writing: meditate, go into a trance, then come out of it to find that all he has to say is now plain. Mr Bodiham the Rector lives literally and metaphorically in "..a brown gloom.." He longs to be a charismatic evangelical preacher but cannot rise above his usual convoluted, dull sermons. The contrast between Bodiham's esoteric biblical exegesis with reference to the second comming and diatribes from Scogan, who always has adequate rational reasons for what he thinks, is very sharp.
The long established Bank Holiday Charity Fair provides a bucolic climax to the novel. Everyone takes part in it. Denis offers to sell copies of his poems (which do not sell). Deaf Jenny plays the drums in the village band. Saurian Scogan metamorphoses into the fortune teller Madame Sesostris. To the admiration of Denis Mary ably organises the children's races whilst Henry, wearing his bowler hat runs all the field events.
A subtitle of the book might be: 'The Continuing Education of Denis'. He fails to get the girl, but he makes a real friend of one; he catches a glimpse of himself as others might see him and he departs a wiser man.
A delightful, worldly, cynical yet joyful book.
on 9 September 2010
I enjoyed this novel from beginning to end. It's superbly written and has many interesting ideas and lots of lovely descriptions. I got to like the characters too.
on 23 March 2013
This was Huxley's first novel and certainly doesn't have the quality or depth of later works. However, there are hints at various points throughout the novel, to topics such as discrimination, social stratification and eugenics which form the basis of Brave New World. Huxley's crafted use of the English language may appear rather twee in 2013 but should serve as an example to the current generation, many of whom seem capable of only dreadful 'text speak' and don't seem to understand the first thing about grammar, syntax, spelling or punctuation. This is quality writing we can all aspire to.
on 16 April 2015
Brave New World is the famous Aldous Huxley novel and I was very impressed with my audio version of it a few years ago. I saw Crome Yellow in Hailsham's OXFAM shop, an almost new copy at at just £1.50, so bought it expecting something vaguely similar. There are a few glimmers of the direction Huxley's writing would later take, but Crome Yellow, his first published novel, is actually a very humorous country house-based tale. Published in 1921 and set in the same era, it describes the visit of a self-conscious young man, Denis Stone, to a society gathering.
Huxley based his fictional characters on real people and, according to the excellent introduction by Malcolm Bradbury, not everyone was flattered by their portrayals! Huxley pokes fun at the pretensions of the time and of the upper classes, and also includes his writing in the mix. One character, Scogan, is particularly critical of exactly the type of novel that Crome Yellow is. I loved the Wimbushes, Henry and Priscilla, and can picture people I know who are remarkably similar to them. Not a lot happens during the gathering, but Huxley's sharp observations and the incidents he sets up are great fun and frequently had me giggling. There are a few moments where lengthy speechmaking slow the pace and date the novel, but overall I enjoyed Crome Yellow very much.