Let me confess to my weakness for books with matching covers. Also, for English books set in the early twentieth century. The Bloomsbury Group titles fit both of these weaknesses to a “T”. Succumbing to this weakness means that I have a box of books winging its way to me from Amazon even as I type.
London, 1931. As growing up looms large in the lives of the Carne sisters, Deirdre, Katrine and young Sheil still share an insatiable appetite for the fantastic. Eldest sister Deirdre is a journalist, Katrine a fledgling actress and young Sheil is still with her governess; together they live a life unchecked by their mother in their bohemian town house. Irrepressibly imaginative, the sisters cannot resist making up stories as they have done since childhood; from their talking nursery toys, Ironface the Doll and Dion Saffyn the pierrot, to their fulsomely-imagined friendship with real high-court Judge Toddington who, since Mrs Carne did jury duty, they affectionately called Toddy.
However, when Deirdre meets Toddy’s real-life wife at a charity bazaar, the sisters are forced to confront the subject of their imaginings. Will the sisters cast off the fantasies of childhood forever? Will Toddy and his wife, Lady Mildred, accept these charmingly eccentric girls? And when fancy and reality collide, who can tell whether Ironface can really talk, whether Judge Toddington truly wears lavender silk pyjamas or whether the Brontës did indeed go to Woolworths? [Description courtesy of Goodreads.]
First published in 1985. Spirited Henrietta wishes she was the kind of doctor’s wife who knew exactly how to deal with the daily upheavals of war. But then, everyone in her close-knit Devonshire village seems to find different ways to cope: there’s the indomitable Lady B, who writes to Hitler every night to tell him precisely what she thinks of him; the terrifyingly efficient Mrs Savernack, who relishes the opportunity to sit on umpteen committees and boss everyone around; flighty, flirtatious Faith who is utterly preoccupied with the latest hats and flashing her shapely legs; and then there’s Charles, Henrietta’s hard-working husband who manages to sleep through a bomb landing in their neighbour’s garden.
With life turned upside down under the shadow of war, Henrietta chronicles the dramas, squabbles and loyal friendships that unfold in her affectionate letters to her ‘dear childhood friend’ Robert. Warm, witty and perfectly observed, “Henrietta’s War” brings to life a sparkling community of determined troupers who pull together to fight the good fight with patriotic fervour and good humour. [Description courtesy of Goodreads]
First published in 1940. When Norman Huntley and Henry Beddow, sheltering from the rain in a dismal Irish country church, placate the sexton by telling him that they knew of his beloved pastor (now departed), there is no reason to suppose that there is any harm in the invention. It is purely for their own amusement that they create a fictional mutual friend: an elderly lady, Miss Hargreaves…
The sexton does not doubt her existence. For him, Miss Hargreaves is as real as you or I. And she gradually assumes a fully-rounded character in the imaginings of the two young men as they while away their holiday in expanding the details of her life: her book of poetry, her parrot Dr Pepusch, her harp, and her hip-bath. It is merely a continuation of their little joke when they write to invite her to visit them back in their cathedral home-town of Cornford.
It is something of a surprise when Miss Hargreaves accepts their invitation. And their disbelief turns to confusion and horror as, one evening soon afterwards, her train pulls into Cornford Station . . .
As Dr Glen Cavaliero stresses in his introduction, Miss Hargreaves is a brilliantly funny and moving fantasy with an admirable lightness of touch and wonderful characterisation, but for all that it has a dark and frightening undercurrent. A burlesque parable of ‘the ways of God with man’, the book explores how the creator must live with the consequences of their creation, no matter how uncomfortable. And if they renounce their responsibilities, then there is always the possibility that their power may be turned against them. [Description courtesy of Goodreads.]
First published in 1932. Tenth May, 1934. At this moment I look up and see the Man Who Lives Next Door standing on his doorstep watching my antics, and disapproving (I feel sure) of my flowered silk dressing gown. Probably his own wife wears one of red flannel, and most certainly has never been seen leaning out of the window in it – The Awful Carrying On of Those Army People – he is thinking.Vivacious, young Hester Christie tries to run her home like clockwork, as would befit the wife of British Army officer, Tim Christie. However hard Mrs Tim strives for seamless living amidst the other army wives, she is always moving flat-out to remember groceries, rule lively children, side-step village gossip and placate her husband with bacon, eggs, toast and marmalade. Left alone for months at a time whilst her husband is with his regiment, Mrs Tim resolves to keep a diary of events large and small in her family life. Once pen is set to paper no affairs of the head or heart are overlooked.When a move to a new regiment in Scotland uproots the Christie family, Mrs Tim is hurled into a whole new drama of dilemmas; from settling in with a new set whilst her husband is away, to disentangling a dear friend from an unsuitable match. Against the wild landscape of surging rivers, sheer rocks and rolling mists, who should stride into Mrs Tim’s life one day but the dashing Major Morley, hellbent on pursuit of our charming heroine. And Hester will soon find that life holds unexpected crossroad.
Oh, I cannot wait! They are going to be so pretty!