Thank you to everyone who found a book to read, and everyone who spread them the world.
I found some Cornish spring flowers for you all.
I hope that one day soon there will be reissues so that all of us can read much more of Margery Sharp’s wonderful work.
We covered a wonderful range of titles between us.
The Nutmeg Tree (1937)
I think Margery Sharp has such a gift for drawing characters, and this is what draws me in. Julia is an aging girl-about-town who wants to pretend to be a lady for her daughter’s sake. When she meets the unsuitable young man, she’s dismayed to discover that he’s all too much like her, and not a good match for her lovely but priggish daughter. Julia’s antics are delightful, but she’s also wonderfully true to herself.
I wasn’t sure at first whether Julia would be a character I was going to like, but I did warm to her very quickly and enjoyed reading about her exploits as she stumbled from one disaster to another. She has such a mixture of qualities, some good and some bad: she can be irresponsible and often acts without thinking, but she’s also warm, friendly and fun-loving.
I have to say that my first experience of reading Margery Sharp was a wonderful one. Her prose is lovely, easy to read and thoroughly engaging, and her characters such fun! I laughed out loud in several places and followed the various scrapes into which Julia got herself with glee. However, I said above that the book was ostensibly light-hearted and there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye.
The most appealing aspect of this novel is that Julia is a keen observer of human nature, aware of the trappings of classism and constantly revising her role (and that of others as well) as need or desire dictates. A reader is left to admire her generous nature, her humor. And laugh out loud at the gentle satirical hand of Sharp as she examines the role of women in between world wars in Britain.
Cluny Brown (1944)
Like Britannia Mews, Cluny Brown is a dream. I loved all of the characters so much that I didn’t want to leave them. Sharp creates real and delightful worlds with a slightly fairy tale quality that completely envelop the reader – I was enchanted.
Lady Fancifull said:
Margery Sharp assembles a cast of strong and quirky characters, all of whom might seem to be examples of ‘types’ …. but Sharp renders them all much more interesting, much more contradictory, and, all of them, much more likeable. Her pen is sharp, but it is also fizzy, joyous, expansive. There is no spitefulness, no meanness of spirit in her writing.
What a wonderful book!
For the past few days I’ve been in the world of Cluny Brown.
Cluny, who’s real name is Clover goes into service in a house in Devon.
A far cry from London where she has been brought up by her Uncle.
I was soon engrossed in the story and wanted to know what was going to happen to Cluny.
Britannia Mews (1946)
This book kept me company during a very busy week – when I had rather less time for reading than usual. It was a fabulous companion; this is such a compelling novel, endlessly readable – I looked forward every day to getting back to these characters even if it was just for a short time.
It is an astonishing novel on many levels and depicts a slice of English history that is multifaceted and rich in detail. I’ve enjoyed reading a Margery Sharp novel that is a little different from the other books I have read, but quite, quite lovely!
The Foolish Gentlewoman (1948)
An absolutely charming novel – Sharp falls firmly into the mid-century middlebrow nexus, sitting comfortably with your Dorothy Whipple, Elizabeth Taylor, Barbara Pym or Mary Hocking. Sharp (ha) and observant about families, education (or the lack of it), class and ageing, she’s maybe a little warmer than Taylor and Pym, although just as incisive and with similar flamboyant, flawed and hilarious characters.
The Gipsy in the Parlour (1953)
The title, cover, and Victorian setting of this one intrigued me, and I was not disappointed. It was another humorous, breezy read that yet had a serious side in its closely observed characters and emotional insight.
Sharp, funny, witty and heartwarming…..you cheer the Sylvester women on, from the beginning till the end and you close the book with warm, fuzzy feeling of goodwill all around!”
The Eye of Love (1957)
The most ordinary events are lent a spin of dry humour, but, vitally, Sharp remains intensely affectionate about her characters – and so does the reader. That is the keynote of the novel, that has various twists and turns and interlacing events: Dolores and Mr Gibson may appear ridiculous to many, but Sharp ably makes it so that the reader, like the characters, sees them instead through the eye of love.
Something Light (1960)
Exactly as the title describes. Something light and delightful.
Martha, Eric and George (1963)
‘Martha, Eric and George’ is the third book in the Martha trilogy written by Margery Sharp. If ‘The Eye of Love’ was a lively entree into this delightful trilogy, ‘Martha in Paris’ was a deliciously light and entertaining prelude to the substantial finale of the drama- ‘Martha, Eric and George’, surrounding the central character of Martha.
The Sun is Scorpio (1965)
I found Cathy a very interesting and sympathetic character. In some ways, she reminded me of Cluny Brown. Both are the proverbial square pegs, full of life and energy, refusing to conform and constantly seeking their own way. But Cathy has a purpose in life, a mission, which Cluny lacks.
In Pious Memory (1967)
Interesting – and often amusing – little details have been placed by Sharp at intervals. Arthur Prelude’s obituary in The Times, for instance, ‘measured five and a half inches’, the sole vegetarian fare served at the wake is muesli, and Lydia, the youngest Prelude daughter, is described as looking young enough to be able to slide down the banisters.
The Innocents (1972)
Margery Sharp was such a perceptive writer; she understood all of her characters so well, and she knew that there were no heroes and no villains, just fallible human beings, some wiser than others. Even though I knew this story it held me, it had my heart rising and falling, from the first page to the last.
And Leaves & Pages recalled reading this book, saying:
Happy 111th Birthday, Margery Sharp! May the re-publishers please get going on bringing you back into print. Someone? Persephone? Grey Ladies? Virago? The early works are quite simply stellar, though I admit there are some minor bobbles later on.
I think that’s everyone, but if it isn’t let me know and I’ll put things right.
I’m looking forward to seeing who reads what next.
I hope that we might do this all again next year.
And that before then we might throw a few more bookish birthday parties ….