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November 2018



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September Books


Bride leads the Chalet School, Elinor M Brent Dyer
There’s a Place for Us Part Two, Harriet Evans
Cherry Ames, Mountaineer Nurse, Julie Tatham
My Turn to Make the Tea, Monica Dickens
Blind Corner, Dornford Yates
The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim, Jonathan Coe
The Soul of Discretion , Susan Hill

I used to have a copy of Bride but I can’t remember what happened to it. Thanks to someone on GO I was able to replace it and so complete my Chalet collection. I was in the mood for EBD’s detailed accounts of just what the girls did every minute of the day, so I enjoyed it. Cherry Ames, Mountaineer Nurse had me foxed at first because of the title; I pictured her as part of some mountain rescue team. In fact, she’s working in a Hillbilly mountain village where some people still behave as if they were living in the eighteenth century. Cherry’s job is to save lives by persuading the folk to accept new-fangled ideas like vaccination and to end a long family feud which has poisoned relations in the village for years. Naturally, cheery Cherry succeeds in both tasks.

The second part of A Place for Us is very short indeed, something of a rip-off. There are enough startling revelations to keep you interested, though. I reported My Turn to Make the Tea as a 50p market bargain. It’s the third of Monica Dickens’ autobiographical books about jobs she’d tried and failed at. In this one she’s working on a provincial newspaper while dreaming of Fleet Street. It was published in 1951 and for me the interest lay in the period feel of post-war England. It is amusing in parts but I found something nasty in many of her ‘amusing’ comments; something hard-hearted and unsympathetic towards people in general. So I thought, ‘not a nice woman’.

huskyteer lent me The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim. I’ve previously enjoyed Jonathan Coe’s books, especially The House of Sleep and The Rotters’ Club (which was made into a good TV series). The ‘terrible privacy’ of the title comes from Maxwell’s description of the life at sea of Donald Crowhurst, with whom he comes to identify as he slips into a mental breakdown. Maxwell is a sympathetic character and I enjoyed the book very much until the end, which is a complete cop-out! I really think Coe owes his readers more than this.

My bedtime reading of Dornford Yates seems to amount to a book a month. Blind Corner is the first of his books to feature the heroes Chandos and Hanbury. These books are usually referred to as ‘the Chandos novels’ but the real hero is the god-like Jonathan Mansel, aka Jonah from the Berry books. This is a very difficult book morally. Mansel and Co. are after a treasure but so is the evil ‘Rose’ Noble (we’ll meet him again) and his gang. Throughout, the enemies are referred to as ‘thieves’ but it seems to me that Chandos and friends are just as much thieves, with no more right to the carefully concealed haul. They make no attempt to find out if there is any rightful heir, just share it out amongst themselves. Another wrong is that the ‘servants’, who have done just as much as their masters, get a smaller share. I can’t think how I just didn’t notice these things when I first read the books, but I was very young at the time.


I read "My Turn to Make the Tea", and "One Pair of Hands" and "One Pair of Feet", as a teenager, and recall enjoying them at the time. Somehow, though, I've never been able to reread any of them. A couple of times I've picked one up, started reading...and just stopped again. I seem to have lost my tolerance for clever-but-nasty somewhere in the last 30 years. (This is probably a good thing, overall. :-) )
lost my tolerance for clever-but-nasty

Glad it's not just me!
Funny, I was coming to say I loved them as a teenager but couldn't get back into them too. How strange!
We're not all on the same Flist for nothing, it seems.
I shall have to try a re-read. I was about 22 when I read it and working on a provincial paper, and found it all very amusing - as well as accurate, given the 30 years between her journo days and the start of mine. My interest was mainly in the newspaper though, and some of the weird stories you have to cover.
I'm planning to lend it to a friend who works on a local free mag. I think it will ring some bells!