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Bourne Along Or Sitting Pretty?

Mention in yesterday's posting of the Threadbone Corporation ThreadiSales Digital TV Shopping Portal [TSTVDSP]'s new Instant Christmas Bookshelf™ - the rapid, cost-effective DIY solution to Educated NeighbourChristmas Envy Inferiority Syndrome [ENCEIS] - has prompted both a "run" on sales ["more than two in the first three hours of trading"] and a renewed interest in the work of once ubiquitous but now largely forgotten romantic novelist Dornford Sittingbourne. Dornford's signature novel - through which he announced himself to an unsuspecting world - was, of course And Suddenly It's Christmas*, part of the timeless [Timebound? Time-warped? [Ed]] And Suddenly... trilogy. A best seller in its day it has gone through multiple editions and our Literary Editor Pru Freda has taken the opportunity to look back on some of its more notable incarnations starting with the first hardback edition in 1954


* And Suddenly It's Christmas was in fact the second novel in the And Suddenly It's trilogy, though the first And Suddenly It's Summer remained largely unknown before its retrospective rescue following the success of its successor... The third volume And Suddenly It's Rosh Shashana had a more limited success, largely amonsgts those with a penchant for mild orientalism. All are available online from the orinoco store


The Editions


Our Literary Editor Pru Freda writes:


The First Edition [1954]

Though the appearance of the Threadbone Corporation ThreadiSales Digital TV Shopping Portal [TSTVDSP]'s new Instant Christmas Bookshelf™ - the rapid, cost-effective DIY solution to Educated NeighbourChristmas Envy Inferiority Syndrome [ENCEIS] - provides a marvellous opportunity to survey the life, work and novels of once ubiquitous but now largely forgotten romantic novelist Dornford Sittingbourne, now is neither the time nor the place. Suffice it to say that his was a generational talent the like of which we will be unfortunate to see again. Not for him the clever plot, the intricacies of complex character exploration or the politics of sex. That he confined strictly to the private sphere.


The first paperback edition [1963]

Recent attempts to reboot the author's posthumous career have appeared from time to time - not least in these pages and as recently as earlier this year*, so, rather than gild the lily, reinvent the wheel and overegg the pudding, I shall confine myself strictly to bibliographic matters and in particular to the technical specialism that we expert book people call the "covers" [ie the outer part of the book on which in some editions artefacts [eg illustrations] appear.


* Recent appraisals, re-appraisals, promotions, retrospects, conspectii, reviews, re-evaluations, reconsiderations, syntheses, critical assessments and puff pieces include: A Life Like No Other, October 2023 [HERE]; Shriven But Not Yet Panned, February 2020 [HERE]; and A New Dawn for Sittingbourne?, October 2019 [HERE]



The relaunched [DHRA] Edition [2003]

The novel itself is et in the Mediterranean during the Second World War and in England 10 years late. It broke new ground by introducing strong female characters alongside a hero of doubtful morals and even more sexuality. Several friends of the author hinted at an autobiographical element, though Sittingbourne always strongly rejected this idea. He and life-partner Artemisia Fonteyn-Bleu did not serve in the Second World War being respectively too young and employed in a reserved occupation [stage dressing at the Wyndham Theatre]. This makes the establishment of any firm correspondence between novel and author problematic. The wide sweep of the novel has offered illustrators the opportunity to pursue a very different "take" on the novels narrative arc.


The latest edition [2023]

For this reason, the covers of Sittingbourne novels have always been a bellwether of changing fashions, tastes and social mores, with the earliest editions reflecting a stoic postwar froideur and the later fifties an uncertain transitional aesthetic. By the 2000s a literal photographic realism had become almost de rigour whilst in its latest incarnation the novel proves itself still to be of the moment, timeless, brave and strangely transgressive.


Perhaps the First Edition comes closest to reflecting Sittingbourne's own personality - a blank canvass on which friends, relatives and love-ones could write their own personal and often intimate stories.


The Film


Our Film Critic Pelle Cule writes:


Fans of the largely unappreciated* thrupiecefilm adaptation [directed by J Arthur Threadbone] who cannot wait for its inevitable showing as part of the DBC's recurring Christmas Scheduling can watch a specially commissioned Worldwide Interweb Streaming Version below and then make up their own minds about the merits of this "2016 Hollywell-ization of a national treasure". Clearly a novel of this stature is difficult if not impossible to capture on screen. Everyone will have their own take and few will likely find the 2016 epic a match for their own "version"; forged in the imagination and honed by constant reappraisal.


* one of the milder reviews can be found HERE. It is widely alleged that the film "took liberties" where none need be taken - including various changes to characters, plot, timelines, motivations and, crucially, to the denouement wherein the tragic ending of the novel is turned into a happy celebration brought about through the redemptive power of a short course in Emergency Culinary Bioethics.


Streaming Version sponsored by Edna's Your Local Shop for All Your Local Needs [not including personal or sanitary items]


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