I’ve written before about how much I enjoy Trisha Ashley’s chicklit for the intelligent person. In no time we have references to the Bröntes, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens (I found ‘Barkis is willing’ very funny), Frank Zappa (that’s an unusual one) and Bob Dylan. Her books are always well written, with nothing to irritate. Every Woman for Herself was first published in 2002, so is earlier than the others I’ve read.
You wouldn’t expect a book which begins with a divorce and a case of manslaughter to be funny, but Every Woman for Herself manages it. Artist Charlie Fry (née Rhymer) is suddenly informed by her rat of a husband that he’s divorcing her, everything is fixed and she just has to sign a few papers. Shocked, if not that sad, she prepares to go back to her family for a while. Home is the Parsonage (an affectation of her father’s, since it’s no such thing), inhabited by a bunch of very eccentric characters. Ran, the father, is a writer who keeps a series of mistresses in the Summer Cottage. His latest is Jessica, known as the Treacle Tart. She has moved into the house with her twin girls, an unprecedented threat. Ran hoped to raise an extraordinary family and he succeeded. Tough, outspoken (she’s terribly rude to Jessica) Emily, a wonderful cook, runs the household and dabbles in white witchcraft. Anne, usually overseas as a war correspondent, is home recovering from cancer. Wars didn’t seem to last long once she’d (Anne) arrived – I think they took one look and united against a greater peril. The really clever one is Branwell, an academic whose behaviour is definitely abnormal. He occasionally returns home to recover his equilibrium. The other members of the household are faithful retainers Walter and Gloria Mundi, brother and sister who live in a separate cottage. Gloria is a mother figure for the children. Like Emily, she has the power of sight and tries to interfere in people’s lives (for their own good as she sees it) by reading tea leaves and brewing vile potions.
That’s the set up when Charlie (Charlotte, of course), returns. She finds life further complicated by a new neighbour, dashing actor Mace who lives in a nearby cottage with his little daughter Caitlin. Now, keep up. Mace falls in love with Charlie, who finds him very attractive but doesn’t want to marry again. The biker vicar, Chris, is in love with Emily. Still, I think she (Em) also finds Chris attractive too, if she can only get over his double handicap of Christianity and the love of Dickens. (This pagan/Christian compromise appears again in Chocolate Wishes.) Anne’s partner has left her because he couldn’t cope with the cancer. Jessica is determined to marry Ran. Branwell has never shown any interest in sex, but that may change. Running as a thread throughout the book is Charlie’s plan for a magazine called Skint Old Northern Woman. Extracts punctuate the story and are very amusing. I liked the series on Skint Old Northern Fashion Victim and this piece: Skint Old Bookworm, No. 1 Never trust a biographer: they read other people’s letters. You can see there’s a lot going on in this book and I’ve missed out several other story lines. Will everyone find true love? Can life at the Parsonage go on as before? I absolutely loved finding out. It’s a dense, complicated romp with the comfort reading factor of a large extended family.
Every Woman for Herself costs 99p for the Kindle, so won’t break the bank. I’m delighted to find that there are still a few Trisha Ashley novels I haven’t read. More treats in store!