I had absolutely no idea that Richmal Crompton had written books for adults. Happily I’m familiar with her Just William series for children of all ages but apparently she always wrote a William book and an adult book at the same time, so she has written a lot, but this is her most successful book for adults. It was another library choice.
It’s a Persephone book but it was first published in 1948. It’s really about two very different families who have become related by marriage. Each of the large families are headed by widows, Mrs Willoughby is a control freak and is very much in control of the family business and purse-strings, there’s plenty of money about but there’s that whiff of nouveau richeness about them and that dreadful vulgarity ‘trade’ as far as the Fowlers are concerned.
Mrs Fowler, is completely different, bookish, very airy fairy and relaxed about everything, the family is comparatively down at heel, old gentry, but definitely classier than the Willoughbys and much loved by everyone.
It’s all about family dynamics and how the personalities of the various family members and their actions impinge on each other. That probably doesn’t sound all that exciting but I did enjoy this one. Bizarrely Mrs Willoughby is described as having an eagle’s-beak nose which she points at her family when she is annoyed with them and they are all terrified of her.
The two women have very different ways of bringing up their children but the outcomes are not so different, both women come to realise that things could have been better if they had been a bit more like each other.
The women characters, all of whom seem to do a lot of sewing and knitting, are the backbone of the book and although there are plenty of male characters they are very much minor ones in comparison.
I’ll be looking out for more of Richmal Crompton’s adult books, but I don’t think they’re all that easy to come by, apart from the few which have been reprinted fairly recently.