Even though it was described as “easily the wittiest novel of the season” when it was published in 1931, I wasn’t expecting to find Poor Caroline so amusing.

Not laugh-out-loud hilarity, no, but many quiet chuckles, gentle hrumphs, and the occasional indignant snort at Mr. Johnson’s impressions of women, which are lamentable to say the least.

I also appreciate the structure of the novel, which affords one long chapter to each of each of the individuals whose life is changed by their contact with Poor Caroline, whose cause, The Christian Cinema (pronounced as though beginning with a ‘k’) Company, does not succeed in conventional terms but does succeed in profoundly affecting the lives of several people, whose faith in the project varies greatly, and not necessarily proportionately to the impact it has on the trajectory of their lives.

The only other Holtby novel I’ve read is Anderby Wold, which has a more traditional feel to it (Poor Caroline feels more modern, set in London, filled with characters who are as likely to travel intercontinentally as to stay in England).

But I’m definitely planning to read more, both of Winifred Holtby’s non-fiction (her Testaments, letters, etc.) and her fiction.

Quotes from the novel:
There’s some virtue in vulgarity that swings you over the hard places when you’re young.

Unpunctuality was the privilege of charming people.

There’s nothing like a bed-sitting-room, I always say. Then you have your books and papers all around you and can work to any hour of the night or day.”