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!
The Holiday Friend by Pamela Hansford Johnson was first published in 1972 but was republished by Hodder and Stoughton in 2018.
Gavin Eastwood is a college lecturer and happily married to Hannah for many years, they have an eleven year old son. They had hoped to have more children but it just never happened, the result is that they are very over-protective of their son Giles and as a consequence he’s rather immature for his age.
For several years they’ve gone to The Hotel Albert in a small coastal town in Belgium, the food is good, everyone is so friendly there and it feels like a home from home to the Eastwoods. Unknown to them a young woman has followed them there. Melissa is a student at the college where Gavin teaches and although she isn’t one of his students she attends all of his lectures, sitting at the back just ogling him. She’s absolutely besotted with him so when she heard Gavin in passing telling a colleague where he was going on holiday with his family, Melissa was delighted, she scraped up the money and booked a room at a cheaper hotel in the same town. She is quite sure that as she loves Gavin so much he must return her feelings and she fantasises about being married to him. She’s a very immature 22 year old.
Almost immediately on her arrival Melissa seeks out Gavin and family, Gavin vaguely recognises her and in no time she’s inserted herself into their lives, all the time barely acknowledging Hannah. The wife realises what is happening immediately, as do the other guests but if Gavin is being honest he rather likes the attenton of a much younger woman and doesn’t immediately rebuff Melissa as he should. Hannah is seething at the effrontery of Melissa’s behaviour and the idiocy of her husband who she knows is not in the least bit interested in Melissa but doesn’t want to squash her. But Melissa is so determined in her mission to have Gavin that the only thing that would derail her plans would be a good dose of brutal truth.
Gavin and Hannah’s longed for holiday is ruined as they spend time trying to avoid Melissa, and dealing with their worries about Giles who has had a slight temperature. Giles has had quite a lot of time on his own on the beach and elsewhere, and they haven’t really being paying him as much attention as usual. You just know that things are not going to end well.
This was a really good read.
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?
When we drove up north of Aberdeen for a few nights last week we had a specific goal in sight – a bookshop in Huntly that we had been told about by a friend. To be honest I was quite disappointed when I saw the shop as it’s really small, however I managed to buy a surprising number of books.
1. Continental Crimes Edited by Martin Edwards – a compilation of short stories, another in the British Crime Classics series.
2. Man Overboard by Monica Dickens
3. An Impossible Marriage by Pamela Hansford Johnson
4. Coot Club by Arthur Ransome
5. Company Parade by Storm Jameson
6. No Signposts in the Sea by Vita Sackville-West
and three Puffin books – yes it seems that I have started a Puffin collection – sort of inadvertently.
7. The Wool-Pack by Cynthia Harnett (A Carnegie Medal Winner)
8. The Machine Gunners by Robert Westall (A Carnegie Medal Winner)
9. A Parcel of Patterns by Jill Paton Walsh
Have you read any of these books?