An Impossible Marriage by Pamela Hansford Johnson was first published in 1954 but was reprinted by Hodder and Stoughton in 2018. This is the second book by the author that I’ve read recently and although I enjoyed reading The Holiday Friend I liked An Impossible Marriage even more, in fact I’ll almost certainly give it 5 stars on Goodreads.
The setting is London between the wars but it begins twenty years later, Christine is going to visit Iris a ‘friend’ from her youth. Christine had grown out of Iris and hadn’t seen her for twenty years but Iris has been nagging Christine by letter to visit her. Iris is always bad news for Christine as she’s a nasty piece of work and always had to steal her friends’ boyfriends – you know the sort. Christine’s mind goes back to when they were teenagers together. Christine wasn’t enamoured of the boyfriends she had who were around her own age, but when she meets Ned who is in his 30s she falls for him. Ned has big plans for his future and he has a flat of his own and a car. He’s completely different from the young lads she has been out with before and marriage to him would be a way of getting away from her difficult step-mother.
Things begin to unravel early on in the marriage when Christine discovers that the car belongs to his father, Ned has been propped up with his family money, but his father is tired of doing that. Ned is a dreamer and he certainly doesn’t intend to put in the effort required to be successful in business. He prefers to spend his time playing golf and tennis. As Christine had had to give up her office job as soon as she got married money is tight. When she discovers she’s pregnant Ned is furious and when she has the baby he’s not interested in it, in fact Christine realises he’s less mature than her teenage boyfriends had been, he even stops Christine from writing poetry, probably because she had had some success in getting her poems published. Ned is selfish, bone lazy and mean. Can Christine put up with him for a lifetime, as her mother-in-law has done with his father?
The blurb on the back says: A classic coming-of-age story set in the 1930s, by one of Britain’s best-loved and almost forgotten novelists.
I got the impression that the book is autobiographical, I suppose most novels are in one way or another – whatever – I loved this one, the setting, writing style, flashes of humour and Christine’s personality were just what I needed at the moment.
Pamela Hansford Johnson married C.P. Snow but prior to that marriage she was married to an Australian journalist, I bet he was the template for Ned!