Over the summer, I’ve been bingeing on vintage detective fiction. Along with Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh, I also love the lesser-known Gladys Mitchell. I love the slightly mannered air time has given these books, and the occasional delights caused by changes in language usage. (In The Saltmarsh Murders, a woman is described as having “turned gay”. After a while I worked out this meant she was having a heterosexual affair.) Also there’s a group of young women whose friendships really do seem to have… distinct lesbian overtones.
This passage really struck me recently, in Death and the Maiden, published in 1947.
Laura grinned. “You’ve guess it,” she said contentedly. “Yes, the lad and I have come to a sort of understanding. I’m not to interfere with his career, and he’s not to take me away from my job, and we fight all the time in any case, but, apart from that, there seems little reason why the wedding bells, as such, should not peal out in the comparatively near future. Your congratulations are neither solicited nor desired. I think, myself, I’m being a bit of a fool, but you probably know how it is.”
“Well, well!” said Mrs Bradley. “Dear me! And I never suspected a thing!”
“Call yourself a detective!” said Laura. “I thought it stuck out a mile. Still, we haven’t really seen much of one another yet, you know, and it’s such a nuisance I shall have to be the one to have the children. It’s such a waste of time, and the sort of thing calculated, I should fancy, to drive intelligent females mad, but there it is. Three boys and a girl is my schedule, to be produced within nine years. What do you think? Is that reasonable? I thought I’d get it over, you know, and then take up motor-racing or something.”
Lucky we’ve come such a long way in the last sixty years, etc.