An Impossible Marriage by Pamela Hansford Johnson

 An Impossible Marriage cover

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!

Stormy Petrel by Mary Stewart

Mary Stewart is another of those authors whom I’m trying to read my way through and ticking them off my list as I go. This book was first published in 1991 but my copy is a Hodder and Stoughton which was published this year.

Rose Fenemore is an English tutor at Cambridge but she’s also a secret but popular writer of science fiction. She’s got a bit of writer’s block so when she spots an advert in The Times- ‘Ivory tower for long or short let. Isolated cottage on small Hebridean island off the coast of Mull. Ideal for writer or artist in search of peace.’ – she decides to write off to the box number in the hope of renting it for a holiday. I know, I know – it’s very similar to Elizabeth von Arnim’s An Enchanted April but on the other hand it is something which lots of us do from time to time. Well we do anyway.

Rose’s brother decides to join her in the cottage as he’s a keen photographer and he wants to photograph the wildlife on the island, particularly the elusive stormy petrel, a small sea-bird. Things don’t go exactly to plan and Rose realises that she can’t find peace to write even on the tiny island of Moila, off the Isle of Mull.

This was a quick read and it’s perfect if you’re looking for some light holiday reading and you particularly enjoy books with a Scottish setting. Or even if you just want something to take you away from all the horrible news which we’re getting on a daily basis, from all corners of the world.

I always look to see who a book has been dedicated to because it can be really interestng. Mary Stewart dedicated this one to Culcicoides Pulicaris Argyllensis with respect.

She obviously has a sense of humour as that is the Latin name for the teeny wee midge which plagues the west coast of Scotland and eats people alive! Luckily they very rarely bother me!