The Fierce and Misty Flood: Barbara Comyns on the Quiet Seduction

Barbara Comyns’s novel Our Spoons Came from Woolworths (1950) follows the doomed marriage of two young, bohemian artists during England’s Great Depression. The excerpt below is a simple, gentle seduction; I love the way in which the protagonist, Sophia, swiftly and casually dismisses her husband and her own sense of identity. The scene strikes me as quietly wild. Its predictability is charming; its comedy, unassuming and disarming:

When we had finished eating and drinking, I played the portable gramophone. He had a lot of foreign records – chiefly Spanish. I hadn’t heard any before and played them every time I came. After a while I became bored with turning the handle, which fitted badly and kept flying out, so we just talked. I sat on the floor, very near the fire, and he sat in a low chair behind me, and I leant my back against him. It was so comfortable, I couldn’t bear the idea of going home and making the flat smell of polish. Then we became silent, and Peregrine came and sat on the floor beside me. Then he began to kiss me; at first I was shy and scared, although I realised now I’d been wanting him to do this for quite a long time. I forgot about being shy and kissed him back. Then I knew I had never loved Charles. I felt I was being carried away in a great, fierce, misty flood.

Some time later, when I realised I had been unfaithful, I didn’t feel guilty or sad; I just felt awfully happy I had had this experience, which if I had remained a “good wife” I would have missed, although, of course, I wouldn’t have known what I was missing. I felt quite bewildered. I had had one and a half children, but had been a kind of virgin all the time. I wondered if there were other women like this, but I knew so few women intimately it was difficult to tell.

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