The Love Child by Edith Olivier

The Love Child by Edith Olivier was first published in 1927 and has just been reprinted by British Library.

The tale begins with the funeral of Agatha Bodenham’s mother. Agatha is an only child, a 32 year old spinster, and she hadn’t really been particularly close to her mother. They had both been rather introverted and had led fairly solitary lives, so Agatha finds herself thinking of the imaginary friend Clarissa that she had had throughout her childhood, but a disdainful governess had caused Agatha to give up on her imaginary friend at the age of 14.

Now in her loneliness Agatha’s thoughts go back to those days when she had had the companionship of Clarissa. Agatha’s imagination runs riot as she becomes so enamoured with the thought of Clarissa and begins to play with her as she did. Others are perplexed when they see her dashing around in the garden for no apparent reason, they can’t see her playmate. Eventually Clarissa begins to appear in front of other people which is a bit awkward as Agatha has to pretend that she has adopted the little girl. The relationship that Agatha has with Clarissa works wonders for Agatha’s personality as Clarissa is popular with servants and staff wherever they go and the popularity is reflected back on Agatha, her life has expanded and been enriched – but will it last?

This is a strange story but I did enjoy it although I found it to be quite a sad read, dealing as it does with a solitary woman, one of many in those post Great War days. As ever with this British Library Women Writer’s series the story is accompanied by a short but interesting timeline of the 1920s, some information on the author and various other bits and pieces including an Afterword by Simon Thomas.

Thank you to British Library for sending me a copy of this book for review.

Sally on the Rocks by Winifred Boggs

The setting is early on in the First World War. The village of Little Crampton is home to Miss Maggie Hopkins, she’s a spinster and her hobby is digging up the dirt on anyone she comes into contact with – then broadcasting it to all and sundry. When Mrs Dalton a young widow with a daughter moves into the village she knows that she’ll have to find a husband soon as her money will run out. She sets her cap at Mr Bingley the local bank manager who is reputed to have plenty of money. Maggie Hopkins decides to have some amusement at Mrs Dalton’s expense and writes a letter to Miss Sally Lunton who has been living in Paris, but had lived in Little Crampton earlier as she was a ward of the local vicar Mr Lovelady. At the age of 31 Sally feels she’s on the shelf and will have to find a rich husband soon, so with the war advancing on Paris she decides to head for the safer location of Little Crampton, especially as Maggie Hopkins has written to tell Sally all about the wealthy bank manager who is a bachelor.

This is a great read which has plenty of humour, with the rivals for the bank manager becoming friends in their honesty that neither of them really want him as he’s a fairly unattractive and ghastly man, and is absolutely full of himself, but needs must! They’re both head and shoulders above him intellectually, but as women their life choices are narrow.

Mr Bingley had had one of those mothers who was determined to ward off any woman who might look like taking him away from her. Knowing that she couldn’t live forever and with the future in mind she wrote a huge book of advice for him. THE BOOK which Mr Bingley consults constantly has such advice as: Never marry your social superior; she will look down on you. Never marry your social inferior, you will look down on her. His mother is orchestrating his life from the grave!

Added to that is Maggie Hopkins, a sleuth who thinks nothing of writing letters to people abroad to ferret out what she sees as scandal.

First published in 1915 I was really impressed that Winifred Boggs had written about how the war could devastate a soldier’s life, even if he looked unscathed to the casual observer.

As ever, there’s a lot more to this book than I’ve written about, but I’ll leave that for you to discover, if you fancy reading it.

Many thanks to British Library who sent me a copy of this book for review.

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 Widow of Bath by Margot Bennett

The Widow of Bath by the Scottish author Margot Bennett was first published in 1952.

The book begins with Hugh Everton having a meal in a hotel in Margate, he works for a travel agency and part of his job consists of going around hotels and trying them out, he’s very jaded by the whole thing with the same meals appearing at the different hotels.

When a group of people walk into the bar Everton realises that one of the women is Lucy, an old flame of his, and she’s with her new husband, Gregory Bath who is a retired judge. Everton agrees to go back to the judge’s house for drinks along with Lucy’s aunt and some others.

When murder ensues Everton finds himself in a difficult position as he has had a bit of a brush with the law in the past.

For me this was mainly a bedtime read, and that might have been the problem with it as I found it to be too convoluted for a tired brain, otherwise I wasn’t really enamoured with any of the characters and that’s always disappointing. However the writing is good and I appreciated the humour.

The cover design has been taken from a British Rail travel poster advertising Plymouth on the south coast of England. I had a look at modern photographs of the area on the internet and was very happy to see that all that art deco architecture has survived, which is quite surprising considering how comprehensively Plymouth was bombed during World War 2.

Thank you to British Library who sent me a copy of this book for review.

Plymouth

Mamma by Diane Tutton

Mamma by Diane Tutton was first published in 1956 but it has recently been reprinted by British Library.

The book begins with Joanna Malling travelling to the house she has bought, it’s moving in day but nothing seems to be going to plan, she’s even having second thoughts about the house. Joanna has had quite a sad life, widowed at just 21 with a small daughter to look after, Libby. It’s now twenty years later, Joanna hadn’t expected to remain a widow all those years but only one man had proposed to her and he was so much older she regarded that as an insult.

Now it’s Libby’s turn to get married, and her husband is 15 years older than Libby, so there’s only a six year age gap between Joanna and Steven. Joanna just can’t understand what Libby sees in him, they seem such a mismatched couple, but as she gets to know him better Joanna realises that she has much more in common with Steven than her daughter has and things get a wee bit awkward.

In an era when 41 year old women were regarded as being over the hill and fairly superfluous members of society this book has some rather uncomfortable moments with the horribly immature but pushy Libby not seeming to regard her mother as a human being at all. This was a good read.

Thank you to British Library for sending me a copy of the book for review.

Tension by E.M. Delafield

Tension by E.M. Delafield was first published in 1920 but has just been reprinted by British Library. It has a preface by Lucy Evans and an afterword by Simon Thomas of Stuck in a Book.

Sir Julian Rossiter is the director of a small private college. His wife Lady Rossiter is a rather overbearing woman who seems to regard the teachers of the establishment to be somehow under her supervision. She’s forever poking her nose in where it isn’t wanted. When a new superintendent of shorthand and typing is employed at the college Lady Rossiter realises that it’s someone that a male relative of hers had been involved with in the past, and she doesn’t approve of Miss Marchrose at all. She feels that she treated her relative very badly.

But Miss Marchrose is very good at her job and popular with everyone at the college, especially with Mark Easter who is rather a favourite with Lady Rossiter. Frankly she’s jealous and decides to instigate a campaign to get rid of Miss Marchrose, dripping poison about her into the ears of the other teachers, one by one.

There’s no getting away from it, Edna, Lady Rossiter is a ghastly human being with no empathy for a woman who was in the same boat as she had been in the past, but marriage to Sir Julian had put all such thoughts out of her head, and had led to her developing a horrible sense of superiority.

However it isn’t just the women who had been in a similar situation. Three of the male characters had taken the plunge and had at some point proposed marriage just because they felt sorry for a woman. It isn’t a good basis for a successful marriage, but Sir Julian has perfected the art of withdrawing from marital life as much as possible – anything for a quite life! Lady Rossiter mentions that they never argue, not realising that that is proof of their estrangement. I must admit that I always shudder whenever people boast of never having had an argument with their spouse as it means that one of the couple is a doormat, or frightened to voice their own opinions – or they just don’t care enough to bother to communicate.

This makes the book sound a bit of a drag but it really isn’t, there’s quite a lot of humour in it, although not at the same level as Delafield’s Provincial Lady books. I particularly enjoyed the company of Mark’s two young children Ruthie and her younger brother Ambrose, known to Ruthie as Peekaboo. Ruthie does a lot of excited hopping on one leg, I could just see her doing it, and poor wee Ambrose – bossed around by Ruthie – is charming, sticky hands and all!

I was sent a copy of this book for review by British Library and as a fan of the Provincial Lady books I was very happy to do so. This was a very different read which was at times infuriating, but that just proves what a good writer Delafield was.

Wild Harbour by Ian Macpherson

 Wild Harbour cover

Wild Harbour by Ian Macpherson was published in 1936 but it has been reprinted by British Library in the Science Fiction category. Actually it’s a bit of a difficult book to categorise, I wouldn’t really call it SF. Ian Macpherson was a Scottish author and he was obviously influenced by what was happening in the news in the 1930s, with Hitler tooling up for WW2 and indeed the Spanish Civil war already ongoing.

Hugh has no intention of waiting for his call up papers, he doesn’t want to take part in any war, so he and his wife Terry pack their little car with as many things from their home as they can and as much food as possible, and set off for the western Highlands of Scotland. They know of a well hidden cave there that they can hide out in. Hugh has also managed to buy lots of ammunition for his gun and takes a lot of rabbit traps too, he plans to shoot deer to feed them.

The next part of the book is all about them trying to make their cave into a home, levelling the floor, building a chimney and hearth. It’s fine in the warm summer weather but they know that it’ll be brutally cold and snowy in the winter. This section reminds me of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie except they were building a cabin, not fitting out a cave.

Life is much harder than they could have imagined and eventually the war catches up with them as starving gunmen make their way into the Highlands. Certainly towards the end this wasn’t an uplifting read as I’m sure you can imagine. I’m sure that in the 1930s there were a lot of ordinary people who just felt like getting away from the threat of a wartime situation, just as many people nowadays hanker after going off grid and withdrawing from society – even without the prospect of being called up to ‘do their bit’.

Library Books

Library Books

One night a couple of weeks ago I got quite despondent about the approaching winter which will surely be a long and rather depressing one. So I decided to cheer myself up by spending some time reserving books from the library. Not that I need books from the library as I have so many unread books of my own (and Jack’s) there’s no danger of running out of reading matter, but I hate the thought that the libraries might close down completely again over winter. Some of the books have arrived and a couple of others will be  along time in turning up as there are over 40 people in front of me waiting for them! At the moment my library books are:

A Book of Book Lists by Alex Johnson

An Impossible Marriage by Pamela Hansford Johnson

The Holiday Friend by Pamela Hansford Johnson

Murder by Matchlight by E.C.R. Lorac

Wild Harbour by Ian MacPherson

Gerald and Elizabeth by D.E. Stevenson

Baby Knits by Susie Johns

 

A  few of these books have been published by The British Library. which I just typed into the search box in the library catalogue and lots of interesting publications that I didn’t know about appeared, but I reined myself in – for now.

Have you been using your local library recently?