Helen Bevington’s third book of memoirs THE HOUSE WAS QUIET AND THE WORLD WAS CALM appears on the surface to be the most inconsequential of the three dealing with her and her husband’s life at a university in North Carolina while Both of their sons are off fighting in World War II but there is a lot of simple wisdom in these pages.
The book can be divided into three parts – )1. The first part describes Bevington’s husband B.’s being hired by the North Carolina Uni. The business of moving in and finally Bevington herself being hired at the same school to teach English as there is a shortage of manpower due to WWII 2.) The second part of the book is Bevington’s approach to first teaching as she discusses methods and the mind of the student and then poetry itelf as she quotes other famous poets in kind of a general treatise on poetic writing 3.) The third part is about a long English vacation the Bevington’s take after WWII is over interrupted by two emergencies – Bevington has a lump removed from her breast which turns out to be malignant and one of her sons is in a serious car accident which ends the book.
As a teacher and a poet, the most interesting part of this book was the middle section about teaching and writing. Her class is all girls and she acts as sort of role model to what a woman can achieve in 1940’s America. Academia being one area a woman could rise in position at that time. I am not a fan of Bevington’s poetry however (even though I love her work as a memoirist). To her poetry seems a surface collection of descriptive words ruled by a sort of literary order and I think she discounts meaning too much as well as experimentation.
Still, this is an enjoyable read. I also liked her ruminating on the development and use of atomic weapons, the moral implications etc....Some surprisingly deep writing there.
My thoughts on Helen Bevington’s first two volumes of memoirs
CHARLEY SMITH’S GIRL http://rgdinmalaysia.blogspot.com/2013/07/charley-smiths-girl-by-helen-bevington.html
A BOOK AND A LOVE AFFAIR http://rgdinmalaysia.blogspot.com/2013/10/a-book-and-love-affair-by-helen.html