The Singer not the Song by Audrey Erskine Lindop

I remembered that I really enjoyed reading a few of Lindop’s books way back in the 1970s and for that reason I decided to add her to the CPR Book Group list, which is a place for neglected authors and books which deserve to be better known than they are at present. It only seems to be myself and Anne Hayes who have any interest in Lindop’s books at the moment.

Unfortunately her books are quite difficult to get a hold of but I bought The Singer not the Song in an Edinburgh second-hand bookshop and it was one which I hadn’t read before. At first I was really disappointed when I realised that the book is set in Mexico and is about the Roman Catholic church, in fact I almost didn’t read it for that reason, but I’m glad that I persevered.

Firstly I have to say that my copy is from 1954 and the blurb on the cover is wrong when it says that it is set in the revolutionary period of the 1920s and 30s. It is definitely post World War II early 1950s and a bishop is interviewing priests for an appointment in Quantana to replace the elderly Father Gomez who hasn’t exactly stuck to his vows and has lost the respect of his parishioners.

Quantana is a small village in the mountains and is very cut off from the rest of society and the whole place has been taken over by Malo, a young bandit, and his sidekicks. Basically Malo – the Bad One – runs a protection racket in that if the villagers don’t pay him ‘tax’, nasty things are going to happen to them. Malo has an affinity with cats and he has the same habit of playing with his victims.

Father Keogh, a young priest from Ireland, is chosen for the difficult position. Just about the first thing he has to do is get Father Gomez out of the village alive as Gomez believes Malo will kill him.

The whole book becomes a fight for the lives and souls of the villagers as Malo is determined to keep his evil hold on them and tries to humiliate the priest. Father Keogh struggles against Malo for the good of the people who are all terrified of the bandit gang.

It doesn’t sound like much I suppose but it is a very good read and the book was made into a film in 1961. I had already finished the book when I realised this but strangely I had imagined Dirk Bogarde as Malo so maybe I did see it when I was knee high.

There seems to be virtually nothing on the internet about Audrey Erskine Lindop. Possibly her mother or grandmother was Scottish as Erskine is a Scottish surname and place name. She was married to a playwright called Leslie Dudley and I’ve discovered that at one point she lived in a place called Chagford in South Devon. I discovered that because someone is selling a letter from her on Ebay at the moment and you can just make out the address. Does anybody have any more information on this sadly neglected writer?

Book Haul

It’s half-term and we went to Stockbridge in Edinburgh again and had a good snoop around the bookshops. Too good actually because I ended up spending just over 30 quid – ouch.

The Jasmine Farm by Elizabeth von Arnim
Penny Plain by O. Douglas
Cromartie Versus the God Shiva by Rumer Godden
The Greengage Summer by Rumer Godden
The Singer not the Song by Audrey Erskine Lindop
The Corn King and The Spring Queen by Naomi Mitchison
The Republic by Plato
The Building of Jalna by Mazo de la Roche
The Soul of Kindness by Elizabeth Taylor
County Chronicle by Angela Thirkell

I don’t feel too bad about it though because quite a few of them will be read for The C P R Book Group – eventually!

Mazo de la Roche and Audrey Erskine Lindop

I think a lot of us have been casting our minds back recently, trying to remember authors whom we’ve enjoyed in the past, I know I have been anyway and other bloggers and commentators have weighed in with their suggestions too. So my author list is ever lengthening in fact it’s just growing and growing like Topsy!

I’m hoping to read more Mary Stewarts soon, in fact I bought a hardback copy of The Wicked Day for pennies from Amazon so I’m looking forward to reading that. And I’m looking for more by Angela Thirkell and D.E. Stevenson. Niranjana (Brown Paper) has just reminded me of Elizabeth Jane Howard.

But what I really want to know is: Has anybody read anything by Mazo de la Roche? She wrote a lot of books and in the first library that I worked in there was a shelf full of them, but that was in the 1970s and they were regarded as being old-fashioned then. As I recall the shelf was just one big mass of pink covers which never moved. I have an urge to try them out now, the Jalna series anyway but I’m wondering if they are worth reading. Her name sounds very exotic but she seems to have been a Canadian writer.

I have a vague feeling that I have read at least one book by Audrey Erskine Lindop but so long ago that I can’t remember for sure. Has anyone read anything by her? If so, would you recommend giving her a go?

It would seem that a lot of readers have been quietly ‘doing their bit’ to save neglected books. If you haven’t already read her post have a look at what Danielle at A Work in Progress has written about it.

I know that libraries have to make space for new books but it means that books are sold off or they languish in the Reserve Stock where ordinary readers can’t browse. I love the idea of readers going around borrowing books in the hope of saving them for another generation of readers.

If we were doing it for anything else other than books we would be a pressure group and have a proper name. I’ve been amusing myself thinking of what we could be called. From an Edinburgh point of view we would have to be The Book Resurrectionists. Or is it more akin to defibrillating – Book Paramedics or The CPR Book Group.

Anyway if you pick up a book in your library and it’s a good long while since it has been borrowed, make it happy and give it a go. After all it was once somebody’s ‘baby’!!