Say the bells of St Martin’s
My childhood book says 'halfpence and farthings'.
I came late to Jam Tomorrow and loved it. So as soon as I found out that Monica Redlich had written another girls’ book, Five Farthings, I wanted to read it. Unfortunately, it’s a scarce title. Fortunately, it’s been reprinted by Margin Notes Books and I pre-ordered it as soon as I could. As you can see from the lovely cover, it’s a London book and I recommend it to anyone who likes to read about London; in this book just before the war.
The Farthings of the title are mother, father and three children, not as well off as they used to be, who lose their home and father’s job when the estate he works on has to be sold. Here comes the weak part of the story: father has one of those mysterious illnesses without a name, which might be cured by ‘new electrical treatment’ available only in London. The Farthings move to London, living at first in a crummy hotel and then, thanks to a discovery by the children, in a converted office in the heart of the City, right near St Paul’s. Here’s where the book gets going. The story is told mainly from the point of view of seventeen year old Vivien, who takes over the housekeeping so her mother can go out to work while father is in hospital. Vivien’s discovery of the City of London, its churches, courts and alleyways is at the heart of the book and explains how the Farthings come to see that London has as much to offer as their country home. I was filled with nostalgia by the descriptions of the meals they have in Lyons Corner Houses. I also thought Lyons was absolutely wonderful when I was a child; I swear no one since has sold such splendid buns as you used to get there.
A little gripe about the type-setting; a space before every apostrophe is hard on the eyes. It’s a book about growing up, first love and happy family life and I loved it.