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gertrude

July 2018

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June Books

Rather a dull month for me.
Practically Perfect, Katie Fforde A sloppily written disappointment. I stayed in the Cotswolds for
Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet, M C Beaton. These books are silly but entertaining. I read this one in about an hour and it made me laugh. Then I turned to
Dodo, an omnibus by E F Benson. Alas, confirmed Tillingite that I am, I found the character of Dodo so tarsome that I just couldn’t read the long, wordy book. So I reached out for another Donna Leon, 10p-from-the-library purchase,
Suffer the Little Children
Popular Music, Mikael Niemi
Prunella Plays the Game, Irene Mossop
Charm’s Last Chance, Irene Mossop
Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley, M C Beaton
The Girl of his Dreams, Donna Leon*L
Said to be more thoughtful and darker than Leon’s other books. Slower, certainly. After the first chapter I was thinking ‘That’s enough about Brunetti, get on with the murders already’ but nothing happens until p.109! You can only get away with this if you write brilliantly; Leon’s writing is fine for a crime series but hardly deathless prose.
By Gwendoline Courtney, all re-reads
Sally’s Family
The Girls of Friar’s Rise
At School with the Stanhopes
The Farm on the Downs
Elizabeth of the Garret Theatre


Lorna at Wynyards, Elinor Brent-Dyer
Stepsisters for Lorna, EBD
Jam Tomorrow, Monica Redlich



Who knows what will take my fancy as the book boxes are opened? I found these by Kathleen O’Farrell, an interesting author.

Silver Birches 1949
Patsy the Second 1951
All Because of Posy. 1957 reissued as Reward 1964
Polly of Primrose Hill 1956 also issued by Peal 1964
Sally Anne sees it Through 1967
Make Room for Mandy 1968

The first two are fairly conventional for their period and aimed at younger children. All Because of Posy is a strange case. I know I read this book as a child because when I picked it up as an adult, I recognized it immediately. The plot is seriously weird. Posy’s elder sister Poppet (really) has disappeared, presumed drowned but Posy refuses to believe it. This is very distressing for her parents and she goes to stay with an aunt who is supposed to take her mind off the lost sister. Instead, Posy sees a girl in a car, is convinced she is Poppet and starts to find out all she can about her. Why is Poppet so rich? (She has lots of lovely nylon dresses!) Why doesn’t she recognise Posy? Will Posy’s parents be forced to sell the cottage they love so much and live in a flat? All is revealed and highly improbable it is but there’s something about this book that grabs the reader. Polly of Primrose Hill is equally silly in its way, about an orphan who is adopted and gets involved in investigating local crimes.

The last two books on my list couldn’t be more different from these earlier ones. They were both published as paperback originals and represent sixties realism: Jacqueline Wilson meets Bunty. Even the illustrations remind one of the comics of the time.



Sally Anne Sees it Through is about a working class family in south London (I’m sure it’s South Norwood!) and how they cope with a sudden crisis. Mum has to go into hospital, Dad has to go to work, Sally Anne has to take on the household and the baby! I might have included this one in my ‘housekeeping books’ post but there’s nothing cosy about it; it’s quite realistic and I like it a lot. Make Room for Mandy is not so good but still believable. Orphaned Mandy has lived with her beloved Gran until she died and then is taken in by her aunt and uncle. They don’t mean to be unkind to her but they lead dull, respectable lives in a spotless home and she’s unhappy. Mandy’s schoolwork starts to suffer until a holiday scheme takes her to stay with a family in a new town (obviously Crawley) and she enjoys a taste of real family life. It’s interesting to see the idealistic ideas about new towns trotted out here (see also Noel Streatfeild’s New Town), but it works for Mandy.

Comments

Dodo isn't a patch on Mapp and Lucia; have you read Secret Lives (I rather liked that one, although again, not as much as M & L).

I had those Kathleen O'Farrell Peal Press books as a child (hand me downs from a family friend who also gave me a lot of Children's Press) but remember nothing about them - even your descriptions don't ring any bells.
Yes, I've read Secret Lives and found it unmemorable. I've also read some of Benson's early novels, like Account Rendered but find them ludicrously melodramatic.

Glad to know someone else has at least heard of Kathleen O'Farrell. I think the books were often given as Sunday School prizes.

Edited at 2009-07-03 07:58 pm (UTC)
The more relistic books sound intriguing. I read All Because of Posy years ago, but clearly don't remember it from the description. I read Polly of Primrose Hill more recently 9and wrote about it here. What impressd itself on me was the fairy tale quality of the story.

Oh, and I'm envious of your Gwendline Courtney rereading. I don't have half of those books, but then I can look forard to reading them for the first time!
Interesting, what you say about Polly. I do like the 'story book' thread in it.

Lucky you, to have Courtney to read for the first time.