Which Way? by Theodora Benson – British Library blogtour

Which Way by Theodora Benson was first published in 1931 but it has just been reprinted by British Library in their Women Writers series. As usual they have included a short bio of the author, a timeline of the 1930s, and an afterword by Simon Thomas of Stuck in a Book fame.

This novel is described as being experimental, it could quite easily have been titled What If? because that’s what it is really. I’m sure we all look back at times in our lives saying “What if I had made a different decision? How different would things have been?” The first part of the book is about Claudia Heseltine’s childhood, she is quite a difficult little girl, naughty in a cruel way at times. Then came a rather shy, priggish religious phase but when she meets Eileen a girl a year younger than her she improves. The friendship is deemed to be suitable by both sets of parents who also become friends. When Claudia is sent to a finishing school in Paris she sends gossipy letters to Eileen, who isn’t always so quick at replying. By the time Eileen is 19 she is busy with her future, she has met Tommy and he is the one for her, despite family opposition. Tommy is much older, rich, doesn’t work and is a philanderer, and her parents had imagined that Eileen would marry a future prime minister. Eileen knows what she wants though – and gets it.

Next comes Claudia’s first decision, the same paragraph appears three times in the book, and each time she makes a different decision when the telephone rings with an invitation for the weekend, she already has two other invitations which have been sent by letter, her decisions lead to three very different futures for her, involving three different men. As happens with human beings depending on which man Claudia is with her character changes, as inevitably people are influenced by the personality of others that they are close to – or want to end up close to! Thinking about it it is probably that trait which leads to many a divorce as after marriage some people do change entirely – they don’t have to be on their best behaviour any more. It’s all a bit of a lottery!

This was an interesting read although I couldn’t get Fleur Forsyte from Galsworthy’s Forsyte Saga out of my head as I felt that Claudia was a similar type.

Thank you to British Library who asked me to take part in this blogtour and sent me a copy of the book. Some of the other bloggers participating are listed on the graphic below.

B L blogtour

You can check the the British Library Shop for these books or look at #FarMoreThanFiction.

The Fair Miss Fortune by D.E. Stevenson

 The Fair Miss Fortune cover

The Fair Miss Fortune by D.E. Stevenson was published by Greyladies in 2011, it was one of those books that D.E. Stevenson’s agent couldn’t get anyone to publish back in 1937 when she wrote it. At the beginning of the book there’s a correspondence between Stevenson (under her married name Peploe) and Mr Curtis Brown, her agent. He was explaining to her that publishers felt that the book was a bit too old fashioned as it featured identical twin sisters and mistaken identity. Having read the book I can see what the publishers meant, but on the other hand it’s a mildly entertaining read of the marshmallow or fluff variety.

The village of Dingleford in England is peopled by the usual widows, bachelors and retired army colonels, it is of course a time when Britain still had an empire so one of the bachelors is home on leave from the army in India.

When Jane Fortune appears in the village with the intention of turning an old house into a tearoom, helped by her old nannie – she quickly attracts the attention of two young men. They are a bit perplexed though when they realise that she doesn’t seem to be quite the same person as they had met before, and often seems not even to know them.

Throw in a truly ghastly smothering, selfish mother of a grown up son and and you have a reasonable light read, but this one doesn’t have the serious social aspects of some of her later books. It’s still entertaining though for when you can’t concentrate on anything too heavy.

I read this one for the Read Scotland Challenge 2017.