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December 2018



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At the Market: Romance

No, not for me: more romantic fiction. It’s one of those weird things, but whenever I do find something good at the market, it’s within five minutes of sticking the parking ticket on the windscreen and setting off hunting. Last Saturday my very first stop was by two promising-looking boxes of old books. I didn’t know whether to admire the seller’s cheek or correct his arithmetic because when I asked how much the books were, he replied, ‘thirty pence each or five for £1.50’! I bought some from him and another elsewhere. Since then, I’ve read three of them, one after the other.

The best find, because it’s quite a scarce book, was The Two Mrs Abbotts by D E Stevenson, a first edition. It’s the third book about Barbara Buncle, by now Mrs Abbott. The other Mrs Abbott is Jerry, married to the elder Mr Abbott’s nephew. This is a pleasant read about life in a small country town during the war. It’s very like some of Angela Thirkell’s books in that it’s virtually plotless, apart from the odd romance, and consists largely of tea parties and conversations. I have to say that Angela Thirkell was a much better writer.


Another first edition and even with a dustwrapper, was Flowers on the Grass by Monica Dickens. I find her a very variable writer; enjoyed One Pair of Feet, didn’t like Mariana, which most people rave about. Flowers on the Grass I liked a lot and read quickly. It’s the story of one man, Daniel, an unsuccessful artist and occasional art teacher. He leads a restless life. The chapter headings are all named for people he interacts with and the effect he has on their lives. I particularly liked ‘The Nurses’, where Monica Dickens was obviously drawing on her own experience. Daniel is the kind of feckless, commitment-phobic yet charming character I’d usually disapprove of but by the end of the book it’s clear what a basically decent chap he is. Probably my favourite of about six Monica Dickens books I’ve read.

Elizabeth Cadell is still a very popular author. I’d only read one of her books before and didn’t think much of it, but I enjoyed Deck with Flowers. A famous opera singer is dictating her memoirs (which will revive the fortunes of a small publishing house), when she suddenly, hysterically, refuses to go on. Her action seems to be connected with the mysterious death of her first husband. Why does she suddenly dismiss her secretary? What is the connection between her friend, the fabulously wealthy maharajah, and the uncle of the main character? There are two romances in the story but the main interest is in the mystery. Enjoyable light reading.



Lovely finds!
Thank you, and so cheap!
As usual I'm positively pistachio-coloured coveting your market finds! I did like Mariana, but that was because I recognised the drama school stories from my own experience, and I'll read that section again and shriek even if I don't read any of the rest.
Mmm, pistachio, my favourite ice cream flavour.
As I'm always saying, I can go week after week and get nothing at all; it's the persistence which brings me luck.
Luck that is well-deserved! Super finds - well done!
Thank you!


I had completely forgotten Monica Dickens, used to love her books in my late teens. Remember she wrote one about the Samaritans which I really enjoyed. Must go and look it up, would like to refamiliarise myself with her books.


I think The Listeners is the Samaritans one.

I first read her in my teens, too. Before that, even, I used to read her column in my mother's Woman's Own!