Title: The Unspeakable Skipton
Author: Pamela Hansford Johnson
Genre: Classic Contemporary
First published in 1959, but this edition was published in 2018
No.of pages: 240
Summary from Goodreads:
Daniel Skipton is a literary genius – at least, that’s what he’ll tell you.
A tortured artist living in Bruges on money donated by others (a distant relative, the daughter of his landlady, his exasperated, long-suffering publishers), he dreams of the time his talent will once again be truly appreciated and spends days working on his masterpiece.
Between charitable bequests, he preys on tourists, accepting hospitality and tricking them into parting with their money; and when an Italian aristocrat arrives, he recognises an opportunity to earn even more.
But is it time for the conman to be conned?
A wickedly funny novel, and one in which you will always find yourself on the side of the undeniably unspeakable Skipton.
Welcome back to another review and it is my first review of 2019! Woot woot! Today we are going to talk about a modern classic titled The Unspeakable Skipton , written by a quite renowned author during her time, Pamela Hansford Johnson.
So, a little back story on how I own this book. One fine Saturday, I went to my favourite bookstore in this town I’m studying here in Leeds, UK and I was planning to buy two books that day which were Vera by Elizabeth Von Arnim and In Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I locked that mindset all week as I await for Saturday to arrive but when I reached there, In Another Life wasn’t in stock. You know the feeling that you are soooo excited to buy a book at a bookstore and not online, because you need to step out of the house once in a while and one of your goals of that day weren’t met?
So yeah, of course I had to walk around the store, upstairs and downstairs, looking through every shelf of every genre to find something that fits my current reading mood. I plan to only spend like less than half an hour in the bookstore, but I ended up spending one and a half. I ain’t complaining but I wanted to read that book so bad! (now, not so much because I heard some iffy stuff about Taylor’s earlier books but I should not let that stand in my way).
I actually held this book in question for like 3 times and questioning my decision, because I wanted to read something contemporary but the books that borne my interest are all classics. I know that I am a fan of classics but I was in a contemporary mood but since I found nothing else in the bookstore that tickles my fancy, so I got this book instead.
Let’s jump into the review!
Plot & Writing
As it says in the synopsis, it is funny. I chuckled a few times while reading this book, and it’s more of a sarcastic funny because this is literally story about a man, that is full of himself but at least he’s aware of it, and his agenda throughout this book is to con people for a few thousand francs to live by. I don’t know if it’s a thing, but as more as I read Classics and watch shows that are historical themed, these people do not like to work. They would be-friend rich friends and kiss their asses, so that they are entitled to perks in order to maintain their desired lavish lifestyle.
But life wasn’t lavish at all in this book, Skipton lived in shoddy upstairs room above a shop, and he needed to write a book, a decent one so his publisher could pay him an advance. He seemed to stumble upon a writer’s block and have some difficulties with the creativity department (can’t blame him, it happens to all of us), but when he meets this group of rich tourists, he sees an opportunity to con them and perhaps make a buck from it.
I personally enjoy the cons, it was simple and entertaining. It wasn’t even hard cons as these tourists are naive and gullible but when I reach to the end of the book, Skipton himself got conned by someone he thought was a big catch and like, any other Classic books, it ended abruptly and open to imagination. So to me, the ending was sad and pathetic. But that is just me, maybe you will interpret it differently.
The writing was throughout sarcastic, I don’t really mind it but it really lacks empathy because the character is as such! With all the silliness going on, the part where Skipton actually sits down and focus on his writing is my favourite part! From it, you can see the writer’s versatility from being wickedly funny to a beautiful summer breeze as he is full of warmth when he is inspired to write.
I have come to pity Mr. Daniel Skipton in some ways but whatever he endured is all because of his conning and lying, IT GOT HIM GOOD AND IT GOT HIM BAD. The other focus in this book are the tourist group, they are a lot to take in! Different personalities and not to mention, EGOS. It is that aspect of characterization that make this story a funny one, it is just simply funny.
You get an accomplished lady that seems to put the men in his group in shame, including her husband. Her husband is very loving man, loving his wife in every single way but also looks for pleasantries of the night, which I do not come to admire. There is also these two other men in the group where one of them is a loud-mouth and always latching himself onto girls, and the other has a more poignant appearance and always seem to speak the right thing.
Of course, there is the CON MAN but I am going to keep him as a secret because it’s just fun that way if you ever want to pick this book up (if you are a classic buff like me)
To sum up, this book is all comic fun! Yes, the characters are two-dimensional except for Skipton, where we see a slight of vulnerability of him when he was his writer-self. I saw the con happening miles away before Skipton realizes, which makes it even more delicious and cunning. It is just a feel-good book, like you’re watching a feel-good 50s movie that almost has no gripping plot. It is simply what happens at that moment in time, being truly raw.
Was I wishing to read a better book that gut me in the feels? Yes, but it’s okay, I take this as an experience. How many people can say that they have read The Unspeakable Skipton, which is a modern classic that no one has talked about before? It was a jolly good time, and I hope you had a jolly good time reading this.
Also, a little side note, I wanted to share a pretty quote I got from the book but the book is not with me right now so I can’t share with you the quote! But as soon as I got my hands on it, I will let you know. I just love sharing quotes, don’t you?
Do you have modern classics that you like? Have you ever read a book that is definitely never be mentioned by the book-ish community but you certainly enjoyed it? ARE YOU INTO CLASSICS LIKE ME? Talk to me, let’s chat 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!
Have a lovely day & talk to you guys soon,