Monday, March 06, 2017


Recently I came across a quote from Joanna Trollope.  I'm not sure how well known she is outside Britain; she was first successful with books that were labelled, with a faintly scornful curl of the lip, 'Aga Sagas'.

I'm never quite sure how well phrases like this translate. An Aga is a very expensive type of stove that warms the house and provides hot water as well as having a hob and a cooker with four ovens at different temperatures permanently ready to bake, simmer or even, in the lowest one, prove dough  or keep orphan lambs cosy should the need arise.

Every farmhouse kitchen in the glossy magazines that I tend to think of as property porn will have an Aga in some colour - bright red, dark green, duck egg blue or even pink - so the expression 'Aga Saga' denotes a story revolving round the  middle-class people who have what is sometimes known as 'first-world problems.'

I'm not a fan of Aga cookers myself.  I love to cook and I always think the oven temperatures are very approximate. But I have no patience with the attitude that suggests that the only people who have real feelings are those who live life in squalor and violence.  Yes, of course, those stories are deeply meaningful too, but human nature comes in all shapes and sizes.

The problems that Joanna Trollope's books deal with are universal - worry about one's children or one's parents, dealing with debt, jealousy, difficult relationships, infidelity - I could go on. But the reason I'm writing about her today is because of that quote I came across.  It described the writer as needing to have 'an acute consciousness of putting yourself in someone else's shoes.'

It's such a good description.  And it doesn't matter whose shoes they are, and it doesn't matter what label gets attached.  For a crime-writer hard-boiled, cozy, police procedural, gumshoe are only a few of the labels that are stuck on our books.  But the same thing applies to us all: if we are able to walk the miles in another man's moccasins we are, to be grand about it, illuminating the human condition, whether we have floral chintz on our windows or  dirty, tattered net curtains.


Sybil Johnson said...

Liked the post. And thanks for explaining the Aga cooker. People kept on referring to one on the Great British Bake Off and I had no clue what they were talking about.

Aline Templeton said...

Always happy to interpret, Sybil!