Maurice, the respectable half of the book wholesaling brothers, the Greens has thanks to a misunderstanding in a disreputable war time bar, accidently offered a job to the naive young Betty. (Abridged because I should get back to work)
'It doesn't mean that we can't use you. It's just that you need a bit of experience first.' What was he getting himself into? This was bosh. People could pick it up as they went along. There was no training or certificate that allowed someone to work in the book trade. The wages were not good enough for employers to be particular. (How very true! ed.)
Betty was puzzled. 'But how? How can I get this . . . experience?'
'Well, Maurice floundered. 'You could serve a sort of apprenticeship. I could give you something to read and see how you get on with it.'
'You want me to read books?'
'Yes. But that's not all. I want you to tell me about them.'
He started her on WIND IN THE WILLOWS.
'Was it written for children?'
'Yes, I suppose so, but adults can enjoy it.'
'But they're all animals.'
'They are in the book, but there's people about who are very like Toad and the Badger. I mean they have the same characteristics.'
'Yes.' She sounded doubtful. Maurice had soon reached the barrier. The girl took everything literally. She had no room for whimsy, and she thought that humour was a childish game.
He tried to get her to the humour in P.G. Wodehouse.
'He puts things in a funny way. And they're all such snobs.'
THE STARS LOOK DOWN was 'too depressing' and HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY was 'too muddly'. It was literary criticism from the ground floor. She liked THE GRAPES OF WRATH because she had seen the film but she found GONE WITH THE WIND formidable.
'It'd take months to read all that. It's a four hour film.'
Maurice sighed. Was this a wild goose chase, trying to make a mark on such a blank, unyielding canvas? The poor girl was fulfilling her side of the bargain - she must have spent the whole week reading - and yet nothing had made an impression. Nothing excited her. He still had to find a way to unlock her perception of life, of people, of her position in the world. What would be her eureka moment?
'What does your husband think of your new job?'
'He can't understand it, ' said Betty. 'And to be honest, neither can I."
More later . . .