‘The Eye of Love’was the first of Margery Sharp’s books I read, back in the days when it was a Virago Modern Classic. The founder of the Library Thing Virago group – a lovely lady named Paola – mentioned that Margery Sharp was one of her favourite authors, I liked the sound of this book, and so I picked up a copy.
I loved it!
I loved the two sequels!
Margery Sharp became one of my favourite authors!
When a whole set of Margery Sharp’s out of print books – including this one and its sequels – were sent back out into the world last year, by Open Road Media, I thought it might be time to revisit ‘The Eye of Love’.
I loved it all over again!
‘The Eye of Love’ is a quirky and charming fairy-tale romance like no other that I have ever read.
It tells the story of a middle-aged couple: Miss Dolores Diver, a rather gawky middle-aged lady, who wears a comb in hair and shawl around her shoulders because believes she has the looks and the character of a Spanish Rose type; and Mr Harry Gibson, a rather stout gentleman who has inherited responsibility for his family business.
In the hands of some authors such characters would appear silly or foolish; but not in Margery Sharp’s hands. She writes about them with great wit, with great affection, and with understanding of their foibles and their perception of each other, looking through the eye of love.
She made me love them, and she made them utterly real.
A rather eccentrically dressed lady I see in town might be a Miss Diver; a quite unremarkable man I see dressed for business might be a Mr Gibson.
I love that!
I love that every single person I might pass in the street has their own life story to be told, and – I hope – somebody who sees them through the eye of love.
Harry & Dolores had happy years together, enjoying simple pleasures and precious hour that they spent together, but they were to be separated. Harry’s business was struggling, he had a chance to make that business – and his widowed mother’s life – secure, but that depended on his marrying the daughter of his new business partner.
He didn’t like it at all, but he knew that he had to do the right thing
The lovers are both distraught, and while Dolores struggles to manage without Harry’s financial and practical support, Harry struggles to work up any enthusiasm for the wedding and new home that his mother and his fiancée are happily planning.
What will happen?
Will true love conquer all?
Wrapped around this romantic comedy is the beginning of the story of Martha, Miss Diver’s orphaned niece. Martha is a stolid and self-possessed little girl, a true individual who is sweetly oblivious to the cares and concerns of others and sails through life’s storms, set on the course that she knows is right for her.
Martha’s passion is art, and all she wants to do is draw the world around her. She is single-minded in her quest for the materials and the time she needs to do that, and along the way she both helps and hinders her aunt in her new role as a landlady; as well as acquiring a very interesting and very sensible patron.
Margery Sharp spins a story that is both lovely and clever in this book. Her writing has both wit and charm, and is acute without ever being unkind. I think that she understood, and that she smiled at her characters.
There are so many lovely details, and a great many moments that strike a chord.
I loved the friendship that blossomed between Harry and his future father-in law. I was entertained by the machinations of the ladies who worked in Harry’s showroom. I was concerned when Dolores’s lodger took her to be a wealthier woman that she was and began to lay plans. I had horribly mixed feeling as I saw how happy and proud Harry’s mother was during the wedding preparations. I was interested in what Martha learned as she drew the gas oven.
Those are just a few of a great many things.
Most of all, I cared about the plight of the star-crossed lovers.
I knew the ending I wanted – and of course I remembered it from the first time I read the book – but I didn’t remember exactly how the story got there until it did.
That ending – and the whole story – was so cleverly constructed and so well told.
I loved the balance of the predictable and the unpredictable.
The first time I read ‘The Eye of Love’ I saw Dolores and Harry as the stars, and it was only when I moved on the sequels that I realised how significant it was that this was the beginning of Martha’s story.
She is definitely a one-off, but she is also an archetypal Margery Sharp heroine: an honest and independent woman, following her own instincts rather that social convention, and charting her own, independent course through life.
I have to love that!
You really should meet Martha. And Harry. And Delores. And Mr Joyce ….
I’m sorry that I shall be leaving Dolores and Harry behind, but I’m looking forward to following Martha’s adventures when she goes to art school in Paris all over again.
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Margery Sharp Day is less that two weeks away – the celebration of her 112th birthday party is happening on 25th January 2017.
There’s no need to RSVP – though it would be lovely to know if you might come – all you need to do is to read a Margery Sharp book between now and then, and post about it on the day!
Just click the picture for all of the details you might want to know.
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