5 Reasons Why You Should Read Josephine Tey

I start with the (fairly) trivial and end on the most important.

1. They were reading it on Arran

Well, that’s not at all important to you, is it?

It is if you are in a book group and need to recommend books to discuss. On the Isle of Arran, Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time and The Franchise Affair generated plenty to talk about.

2. Tey is someone interesting to find out about

Photo of Josephine Tey

Click on this image of Josephine Tey to find out more about her

3. The Mystery of Gordon

“Josephine Tey” was a pen name for Elizabeth Mackintosh. She used the pseudonym Gordon Daviot in her work as a playwright. It is said that she also liked to call herself Gordon Daviot in her personal life. That suggests that she was an interesting person and there might be unusual insight into character in her novels.

4. When Josephine Tey was writing, styles of speech were very different

A review of The Daughter of Time on Amazon includes this opinion: “Lots of funny lower class folk talking in their funny lower class voices.”

I thought I could see what was meant. Then I watched some original footage filmed in London in the late 1940s and surprisingly the voices were close to those in her novels. If reading a novel from the early part of the 20th. Century, or certainly if writing about that time, we should not let our modern prejudices interfere in judging the accuracy of the voices.

My judgement was impressionistic. It would need research accurately to reflect the speech patterns of an earlier time. I therefore don’t know whether Tey gets it right. Nevertheless, there are some issues here. For example, why do radio and television so often use actors with a fake, all-purpose country accent?

You can see the same actor appearing as a native of Yorkshire, Norfolk and Cornwall. Tell me, why do they not use actors who were born and raised in the country, or in the local area, they are meant to portray?

Bernard Hepton, for example, has played Toby Esterhase in the BBC Television adaptations of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, the Kommandant in Colditz and very recently was the voice of a Scottish detective in a repeat of a radio crime series.

Where was Bernard Hepton born? Bradford.

5. Josephine Tey overcomes her struggles with structure

It is frequently claimed that Tey struggled to find a workable structure for her novels. I found it interesting and useful to see how she triumphs over adversity.

Struggles with structure: such an important issue. It would be worth looking at Tey’s structural problems in The Daughter of Time in another post.

Robert Blanchett



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