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Archive for the ‘Stella Gibbons’ Category

What joy! A SEQUEL to Cold Comfort Farm! Such a delight to read! Here are all the characters we left behind, tidied up by Robert Poste’s child in Cold Comfort Farm–but life is messy, and she is needed to return for a little more tidying. The farm has been taken over by the bossy National Trust: cleaned up and converted into a completely fake version of itself–a “blot an’ and blannock on th’  fair bosom o’ Mockuncle Hill!” The farmyard is now the ‘Greate Yarde’ and the w.c. is now the ‘Lytel Herbary’.  Everything labelled in wrought iron, with “typical farmhouse grandfather clocks ticking all over the place.” This will not do! Flora is on the case! The idiotic antics of the International Thinkers’ Group–whose conference at the farm is the subject of the book–made me laugh out loud. Wonderfully silly stuff! Not to mention that such pompous and muddleheaded self-elected saviours of the world  are ever with us, like for instance the current Occupy Wall Street bunch. And it is good to find that she has included plenty of those totally fraudulent but  completely believeable country phrases that set us all chuckling  in the original (‘Our Ticklepenny’s, look ee,  be so goathling an’ crow-picken. . . brast us fer a bowler-hatten scokerd!”).  I suppose modern readers won’t get the joke, not being familiar with the Dark Heart of Country books she was making fun of. Like for instance, Mary Webb’s Precious Bane, which is, I confess, a favorite with me. Oh my, this book was such fun, and I have such happy memories of reading it on the sofa in the sun, after all the stress of Christmas was done. Thank you Rebecca!

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Martyr – An Elizabethan Thriller, by Rory Clements

Interesting idea, an Elizabethan detective–who is the older brother of Shakespeare! And is an agreeable man, whose adventures in defense of the realm lead him into some hair raising situations. In fact, hair erasing–he actually loses an eyebrow, shaved off him during a lurid incident involving drugs and prostitutes. There is some very horrible torture business, which unfortunately is historically accurate. Lots of period detail, and, as I said, an agreeable hero,  who early on gains our well wishes. I did wonder why he so often set off alone on his perilous ventures, but there, it’s all part of the fun of the thing, I guess. There are some fine scenes with that swash buckling figure of romance, Sir Frances Drake–it is his threatened assassination that sets the action going. I was initially reminded of that splendid book, Wolf Hall, but this was frivolous stuff by comparison. Still,  I enjoyed it–though, not enough to instantly go seeking book 2.

Starlight, by Stella Gibbons

Another odd one from Gibbons. Odd firstly of course because it ISN’T Cold Comfort Farm, which was also the case with Nightingale Wood. Having read CCF so many years ago, I determined that this IS Stella Gibbons, and found myself somewhat taken aback to find that, after all, she has other stories to tell. All three books however share a sense of the surreal, or magical. In this case, we have a demonic possession–a demon truly cast out by the power of god as wielded by 2 devout if very human clergymen. There is a lot of STORY here, and I am not convinced that it is as all neatly welded together as one might hope. The bad seed daughter, who eventually is won by the good guy is one strand that almost goes awry, and there is the silly lady she works for–a little vicious, the portrayal of Mrs. Corbett and her entourage of fluffy dogs. Gladys and Annie are the main characters–silly but good ladies, who win in the end, being eventually rescued by their nephew, who invites them to live with him. They took care of him in his babyhood, it appears. And, in the middle of the everyday world of these two old ladies, the wicked new landlord and his ethereal lovely wife–whose taste, however, we are told is tawdry and vulgar. Perhaps that is what troubles me–the double vision, seeing things both as estimable and despicable, which is of course true enough, people judge things differently, and for instance the very different value placed on poor Mr. Fisher’s belongings by the vicar and by Gladys is perfectly understandable. But perhaps I feel this niggling doubt because the author never allows us to see her point of view. At times we’re Gladys, at times we’re Polly. And then, Erica, the German refugee–why is she there, what is her job in this book?  It feels oddly unbalanced. Perhaps I am just old fashioned. With Trollope, with Dickens, you know where you are.
However, I have to say that I enjoyed it–there were many scenes that were sharp and memorable. And, it ALL WORKS OUT IN THE END.  For which I am thankful.

Also, I much enjoyed Pratchett’s Thud and Unseen Academicals–excellent, as always.

In addition, I am reading–and enjoying–Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder, but will leave that until next month.

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