Day 224: The Happy Foreigner

Cover for The Happy ForeignerThe Happy Foreigner by Enid Bagnold is interesting as a record of conditions in France right after World War I. In fact, at the time of its publication (1920), it was lauded for its journalistic qualities. The book is almost certainly quasi-autobiographical, although it was published as fiction.

Fanny is a British girl who volunteers to drive for the French army right after the war. In many places the villages are completely destroyed, and very little food is available. The driving is difficult and hazardous. Fanny and the other girls live in a shack with paper-thin walls, a leaky roof, and mud on the floor, and sleep on stretchers supported by sawhorses. From there, she is transferred closer to Germany, where she lives more comfortably in a town with more gaeity. It is ironic that the Germans seem to be in better shape economically and their towns less ravaged after the war than the French.

As well as a true depiction of the time and place, the novel is about the entrance of women into areas of work that had previously belonged solely to men. When Fanny first enters the dining room of an underground fortress in Verdun, her second posting, all talk ceases, as most of the men have not seen a woman in years. Later when she is assigned to drive for a Russian Colonel, she must address his doubts about her capabilities before he will let her drive.

Fanny meets a French officer, Julien, and they fall in love, but their relationship is one of the oddest things in this unusual, almost telegraphically written book. They are both so leery of each other that their dealings with each other are very tenuous.

I was a little disappointed that Bagnold chose to anchor this tale around a romance, no matter how odd, as it seemed a hackneyed idea, but I suppose that given the circumstances of just a few women among a huge number of men, that was an inevitable choice.

2 thoughts on “Day 224: The Happy Foreigner

  1. Deb December 18, 2012 / 1:27 am

    Hi Kay, Thanks for this review. I knew Enid was the author of National Velvet but did not know of her other works. She is also the sister of R.A. Bagnold, whom I know as an early researcher in “singing sands.” (Beaver Island, MI is where I found my singing sands.)

    Have you read “Where’d you go, Bernadette?” yet? I just read it and look forward to your take.

    • whatmeread December 18, 2012 / 7:44 am

      No, I haven’t read it, Deb. I’ll have to check it out. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.