Pure Juliet by Stella Gibbons was published posthumously in 2016 which was 27 years after her death.
Juliet Slater has just left school at the beginning of the book, she has done really well in her A levels but her father has decreed that she must get a job instead of going to university. Even a letter from the headmaster can’t persuade him to change his decision.
But unknown to her parents Juliet had struck up a friendship with an elderly and wealthy spinster and she takes herself off to live with Mrs Pennecuick – ‘Aunt Addy’, packing a case full of maths and science books so that she can continue her studies in the large house which has a bevy of Spanish servants. As you can imagine Juliet’s intentions are suspected by just about everyone, especially as she’s a very strange character. Nowadays she would probably be described as being quite high on the Autistic or Asperger’s spectrum but neither of those words appear in the book. Juliet has no interest in anything but mathematics and becomes obsessed by coincidences. It’s a word that she has to look up in a dictionary, helped by a library assistant as Juliet’s knowledge of anything outside maths and science is scanty. She’s not interested in any relationships with people and isn’t even grateful for all the help she gets from Aunt Addy, but Addy’s great-nephew Frank sees Juliet as his project, he thinks she might be a genius, and over the years he attempts to help her further her studies and to make her less self-obsessed and a bit more ‘normal’.
I enjoyed this one despite Juliet being so strange and unlikeable. There were plenty of other characters whose company I did appreciate, but if you’re expecting another Cold Comfort Farm you might be disappointed, I remember so many laugh-out-loud moments in that one, but Pure Juliet is quite different. The ending was very abrupt though, almost as if the author just got fed up writing it.