The Bachelor Prince, Debbie Macomber
Jerry, Jean Webster, Kindle
Authobiography, Anthony Trollope, Kindle
The Return of Captain John Emmett, Elizabeth Speller
A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole. Unfinished.
The Birds Fall Down, Rebecca West. Unfinished.
Emily Dennistoun, D E Stevenson
The Fair Miss FortuneD E Stevenson
Dearly Beloved, Mary Burchell
By Angela Thirkell
I didn’t know that Debbie Macomber wrote for Mills & Boon so I read The Bachelor Prince just to see what it was like. Answer: a standard rich man/poor girl romance in M & B’s milder vein. I was going to say this was the first Mills & Boon I’d ever read but I’d forgotten the early hardbacks. I turned to another one, Dearly Beloved by Mary Burchell, published in 1944. When Floria is orphaned, the mysterious Morton Trander offers to pay for her continuing education and support. It’s no Daddy-Long-Legs situation because he seems to take no interest in her and doesn’t reply to her letters. Because he’s ‘a friend of her father’s’ she assumes that he’s quite an old man. Then, when her first secretarial job ends, she is summoned to meet him with the prospect of becoming his secretary. To her surprise, if not the reader’s, he turns out to be a handsome man aged thirty seven. You can see where this is going? The fly in the ointment is a poisonous woman with whom Trander has been in love for years, against his better judgement. So the book becomes a tale of rivalry between a mature, sophisticated bitch and a lovely, innocent young girl for the affections of a man who seldom shows any emotion. You know, I can’t see that these old romances are any worse than many a book given Persephone or Virago status and Mary Burchell is certainly as good as ‘Susan Scarlett’. ISTR she was part of the Woman’s Weekly stable way back. Does anyone know? I read another romance last month: Jerry by Jean Webster. This was a complete surprise because I’d assumed that Jerry would be a girl like Patty, but he’s the hero. A strange little story about Americans in Italy, with the two lovers sparring and teasing until all comes right. Very lightweight.
I’m so enjoying re-reading Angela Thirkell. Before Lunch I’ve already written about. The Headmistress I found a pretty well perfect book, although I disapprove of the ending. Miss Bunting is rather different. Miss Bunting is eighty two and has been governess to half the county families in Barsetshire including the Leslies, who will be familiar to Thirkell readers. She’s rather like Miss Silver in appearance and manner and the author uses her to represent the higher standards of past times. She spends a summer looking after Anne Fielding and ‘brings her on’, that is, helps her to behave and think in the right way. In this book we see the worst of Thirkell’s snobbery starting to come out (it got so much worse when the war was over), with ‘our sort’ trying to work out how to behave with Sam Adams, the wealthy self-made ironmaster and his clever but unattractive daughter Heather. All the reader’s sympathy will be with Sam rather than with the effete gentry but I suppose you could argue that there was a genuine social issue for certain types of people trying to adjust to a changing world. The book’s saving grace is the very subtle and sympathetic way in which Thirkell deals with poor Jane Gresham, living in limbo because her husband has been ‘missing’ for four years and she’s no idea if he’s dead or alive. Plus, of course, it’s very funny in parts. Her Mixo-Lydian refugees are outrageous but you have to laugh at bloodthirsty Gradka, the Fielding’s ‘help’. From the back of the dustwrapper: ‘In my opinion, Mrs Thirkell puts our more portentous novelists to bed.- James Agate’. I agree. Elizabeth Bowen was another admirer.
I think I’ll write a separate post about the Trollope autobiography.