|Great Northern Books Ltd|
the observer Sat 26 September 2009
In the years following the Second World War, there wasn't much to be cheerful about. The conflict was still fresh in people's memories, rationing was in force and the economy was in tatters. In an effort to boost national morale, JB Priestley, a self-confessed malcontent, put together a collection of essays in praise of the simple pleasures in life, from frying sausages outdoors to knocking back a solitary G&T. Delight became a bestseller. Now, 60 years on, at a time when there is once more plenty to be gloomy about, the book has been reissued.
There is much here to raise a smile, not least Priestley's wonderfully lucid, humorous prose, which is a delight in itself. The little things in which he takes pleasure are varied and often hugely affecting: dancing; fountains; a walk in a pine wood; a new box of matches; the sound of a football or an orchestra tuning up; long trousers; playing a cracking game of tennis; smoking in a hot bath; being silly with children; waking to the smell of bacon and coffee; getting a great idea.
Some of the subjects will ring fewer bells for 21st-century readers than they would have done for the author's contemporaries - taking a turn on the deck of a ship before breakfast, for instance, or trying a new type of tobacco are delights from another age. But most are timeless. Who hasn't experienced the thrill of waiting in the dark, after the house lights have dimmed, for the play to begin? Or the joy of Not Going to a party? Not to mention the delight of Sunday newspapers in the countryside: "In London I care less than a fig whether I have the Sunday papers or not; but in the country I am as much delighted as if I had been given a fine present."