Author(s): Stella GibbonsDownload
Set in wartime London, Westwood tells the story of Margaret Steggles, a plain bookish girl whose mother has told her that she is not the type that attracts men. Her schoolfriend Hilda has a sunny temperament and keeps her service boys ‘ever so cheery’. When Margaret finds a ration book on Hampstead Heath the pompous writer Gerard Challis enters both their lives. Margaret slavishly adores Challis and his artistic circle; Challis idolises Hilda for her hair and her eyes and Hilda finds Gerard’s romantic overtures a bit of a bind. This is a delightfully comic and wistful tale of love and longing.
Some Reviews: 96 in Goodreads.com
I was surprised to read a couple of negative reviews of this book as I absolutely loved it, although its 30 years since I read Cold Comfort Farm so in that respect I can’t make a comparison. There are wonderful social observations and some very funny passages. I disagree with some reviews on amazon that all of the characters are unsympathetic. They all have their unattractive sides, which the author makes a point of showing us, but that unfortunately is humam nature. The central character also changes throughout the book and is much more of a complete person by the end. There is a also a real wise woman in the character of Lady Challis. I think the introduciton of the Downes Syndrome child was actually quite innovative for the time and as the narrator seems to education her to a certain extent the author may well have been making a point through this. The only thing that did jar slightly with me was the way the foreign accents were written but overall this book was a joy to read.
I really enjoyed this book, it tells the story of two friends, Margaret and Hilda, and of their lives and those people who they meet during the Second World War. However it is not a blow by blow account of life day to day more about the interactions between people and how those relationships go on to either mean something or do not.
This book was written after the war in the mid 1940’s and that is reflected in the style of writing. Margaret is an interesting character who does tend to dissect her social interactions long after they have happened. Hilda however is very easy going and light hearted. During the story they both meet the same person but each have a very different relationship with him, both wanting from him what the other has but never confiding in one another about this.
I would recommend this book but would say that it is neither fast moving or an in depth story. I think that it needs to be taken on face value as a study of the different types of character and how they deal with everyday relationships. A quietly understated book.
This would be a good candidate for republication by Persephone books. The novel opens with a vibrantly beautiful description of a day in London, and then drops the information that it’s wartime and all this beauty being soaked in by people reaching out for beauty and happiness in the midst of ruin.
The heroine is an earnest, beauty hungry person who has her dreams answered by becoming attached to a playwrights family, and she heads towards the disillusionment the reader expects. It’s not a predictable little tale, though. Gibbons wittily leads her heroine to the brink of what looks like a disappointing accommodation and lesson learned, she and leads her away to something deeper and more interesting. The very ending is a bit heavy-handed, but the wit, originality, and thoughtful morality of this novel is memorable.
I like the blurb on the edition I read: “Stella Gibbons is the Austen of the 20th century”.
It’s great to see she seems to be having a come-back with her other books, and won’t just be remembered for the brilliant “Cold Comfort Farm”.
This is good – and some of the sarcastic bits about the very annoying Mr Challis are very funny – but it’s no Cold Comfort Farm. It’s unfortunate when someone’s first book is so much more successful than all their others. She’s a good writer though and this is very interesting from a setting point of view, as it’s post-Blitz but before the doodlebug raids, and you don’t often get a book set in the war (I think it was written in 1946) where the war is obviously going on but not really the focus of any of the main characters, despite various very much war-related incidents.