The first chapter in the postwar section of the book, ‘Escaping’ considers the impact of war-weariness on public taste, and explores a range of texts that focus not on war, but on its avoidance. By 1943 many felt they had had a surfeit of duty, a feeling encapsulated by the rise of escapist cinema. Trends in spectatorship were matched by reading preferences, and the chapter examines historical fiction through the popular Regency romances of Georgette Heyer. The chapter also examines more self-conscious strategies for escaping the time of war: for example, Mervyn Peake’s fantasy worlds and Elizabeth Bowen’s short stories, many of which depend upon the disruption of temporal and spatial conventions. Bowen is one of many writers to configure the past as a locus of emotional intensity in comparison to the impoverished war-shocked present, and this turn to memory is evident in a number of examples of ‘nostalgic pastoral’. Equally evident was a turn to childhood, youth and the bildungsroman. Through the fiction of L. P. Hartley, Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh the chapter examines unreliable narration, comedy, desire, modernity, cultural mourning and the gendered tropes of bildung.
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