Though Aldous Huxley would later become known as one of the key early figures in the genre of dystopian science fiction, his first novels were gentler satires that played on the manor house genre. Crome Yellow tells of the goings-on at a house called Crome, an artists' colony of sorts where thinkers and writers gather to work, debate, and sometimes, to fall in love.
Crome Yellow satirizes the Bloomsbury-set scene at Garsington Manor, framed by the visit of the callow poet Denis Stone. He is preoccupied with mooning over young Anne Wimbush, who is slightly his senior. The high point of Stone's deployment is his disquisition on the magic power of words and literature (106-107). I wonder if this character might be a critical self-portrait of the book's author.
New thought and theosophical notions are in the air of Crome, entertained especially by Anne's mother Priscilla Wimbush, the lady of the house. Some of the most entertaining passages are monologues from Mr. Scogan, an old school friend of Henry Wimbush. Scogan provides a sardonic counterweight to the naive Stone, and some of his prophecies about a rationally-organized future society (22, 114-116) anticipate the content and themes of Huxley's Brave New World.
PS check out the vintage cover of the copy I scored at this rad book shop in Venice, California!
The 'hero', Denis, a hopeful young poet, is a guest at Crome, the ancestral home of Henry Wimbush, whose history of the previous inhabitants, he recites whenever he can, and is his only interest. Denis tangles with a recovering Cubist painter, a successful writer called Barbecue-Smith, Mary, a virgin obsessed by the dangers of repression and dreaming constantly of wells and towers, and a demented vicar hoping beyond hope for the end of times.
The most grotesque character is Mr Scoggins, a rationalist who looks forward to a future which has a strong resemblance to Brave New World.
I really enjoyed this book.
Woven within all this dialogue, I believe is a plot where Denis is in love with Ann. Denis is a writer, Ann is part of a wealthy "landed" family. Apparently there are many men in love with Anne, and she's not really interested in any of them. At the same time her sister Mary has decided to act on her passions, so that she doesn't suffer from repressed or suppressed passions, but all the men visiting at the time are obsessed with Anne, and don't take Mary seriously. This part sounds interesting, but unfortunately it is suffused with many, many instances of each character falling into Great Discussions of Many Ideas. I'm sure this type of book is very interesting to some, but I just found myself extremely frustrated. Some of the conversations were interesting, such as when the lord of the manor was reading passages from his history of his family. I think those were the most interesting pieces of the book. This was written slightly humorously. It would make a funny movie, I have no idea if it has been-certainly I've seen movies with all the comedic maneuverings of people trying to wub (nothing like good spelling!) WIN their true love, but this was overshadowed (for me anyway) with ALL the Great Conversations going on left and right.
I also understand that this book was written in 1922, and I am living in 2009; I am used to reading modern books and have very little patience reading an extreme amount of conversations (GREAT Lofty conversations) to find out what will happen to the characters. Does Mary really have her passions freed? (does this actually mean she had sex? or did she just make out all night and watch the sunrise with a certain someone-later it is made a teeny bit clearer). Does Denis get his love? Does anyone end up with Anne?
I feel a little guilty because I had to force myself to finish this book, and most of the time I didn't enjoy it. There were enjoyable sections, some humorous sections. There was a conversation about pregnancies in glass bottles for the future. But on the whole, as a whole I didn't like this book. I guess I am not a literary genious. I do like to read books though.
I am interested however, in reading, or trying out one or two of Aldous Huxley's later books.
If you LOVE, Love, love movies and books like Woody Allen's movies with a lot of conversation, then you'll enjoy this book. All the characters are very intelligent and well-spoken. There is no denying that Aldous Huxley was a very intelligent man. I just couldn't decide if he was satiring the wealthy with the endless philosophying and their numerous hobbies or if he was completely being serious.
This, the first published novel of the author, reads like a collection short stories loosely sewn together.
This was Huxley's first published book, and it's a satire which takes place at an English country home. The narrator is Denis, who is a poet. He's clumsily enamored of the host's daughter, Anne. Other characters include two other young women, one of whom has her own love problems and the other of whom is somewhat deaf, but as Denis discovers, that doesn't necessarily mean she misses what goes on around her; Henry, the host, who has opinions on everything and loves to share them at length; and Gombauld, an artist. The plot isn't particularly deep, but the plot isn't the point. It's really all about how these people interact with each other. If you were a contemporary of Huxley's and moved in the same circles, I'm sure reading this would make you smile and recognize people you knew.
And for the modern reader, one of Henry's ideas sounds very familiar:
"An impersonal generation will take the place of Nature's hideous system. In vast state incubators, rows upon rows of gravid bottles will supply the world with the population it requires. The family system will disappear; society, sapped at its very base, will have to find new foundations; and Eros, beautifully and irresponsibly free, will flit like a gay butterfly from flower to flower through a sunlit world."
"It sounds lovely," said Anne.
"The distant future always does."
I found it quite entertaining, and a short read. I also added at least 15 words to my vocabulary (I don't think Huxley ever met a word he didn't like).
The best-written parts, in my opinion, were the parts describing the history of the household and its former occupants - the story about the couple with dwarfism whose son was really tall was particularly well done.
I definitely liked this the least of the three Huxley books I've read, but it was still pretty good.
There are several passages here that show the kernel of "Brave New World" (1932) to have been fully formed in 1921, at the latest. I recommend it to those who are curious about this, and also to anyone much familiar with the culture of postwar England. Others may find the satire opaque or pointless.
I liked the book but it wasn’t as enjoyable as his Brave New World but this is a quick read for those working their way through the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die.
There is definitely humor here, but it is 100-year-old upper class English humor, and doesn't really do it for me.
The best and most interesting part is when Mr Scogan spends a page expounding on what he thinks will be life in the future. His world sounds like an outline for Brave New World--which this book predates by 12 years.
One character I found particularly funny was the local vicar, Mr. Bodiham: "He preached with fury, with passion, an iron man beating with a flail upon the souls of his congregation. But the souls of the faithful at Crome were made of india-rubber, solid rubber; the flail rebounded." A predecessor of Amos in Stella Gibbons' [Cold Comfort Farm]!
There were indications of Huxley's masterpiece to come, [Brave New World]. For example, in this early passage by one of the guests (Mr. Scogan):
"Eros, for those who wish it, is now an entirely free god; his deplorable associations with Lucina may be broken at will. In the course of the next few centuries, who knows? the world may see a more complete severance. I look forward to it optimistically. ... our descendants will experiment and succeed. An impersonal generation will take the place of Nature's hideous system. In vast state incubators, rows upon rows of gravid bottles will supply the world with the population it requires. The family system will disappear; society, sapped at its very base, will have to find new foundations; and Eros, beautifully and irresponsibly free, will flit like a gay butterfly from flower to flower through a sunlit world."
Finally, a quote I love from this (also by Mr. Scogan):
"After all, what is reading but a vice, like drink or venery or any other form of excessive self-indulgence? One reads to tickle and amuse one's mind; one reads, above all, to prevent oneself thinking."
Goodreads is but a sea of possibilities, rife with points of contact albeit drifting and bobbing. Too often I don't hear the calls across the foamy expanses. It is with relief and gratitude that I thank Jim Paris for suggesting this novel.
Crome Yellow is Huxley's first novel.
It has wit and snark.
It overflows with pain and self-deprecation.
It takes place in a place called Crome.
It involves a bank holiday and there are references to oysters.