A Thank You Letter After Margery Sharp Day

I want to say thank you to everyone who played a part in this celebration of the lovely legacy of books that Margery Sharp left to the world.

flowersThank you to everyone who found a book to read, and everyone who spread them the world.

I found some spring flowers for you all.

And for her, of course.

I’m delighted that ten titles have reissued as e-books since last year’s Margery Sharp Day; making her work much more accessible than it had been.

I hope that there will be more reissues – and paper books too – so that we can read many more of Margery Sharp’s wonderful words, and draw others into her world.

We covered a wonderful range of titles between us.

The Flowering Thorn (1933)

Liz said

“A charming, funny and rather moving novel. Socialite Lesley Frewen decides on a whim to adopt the orphaned Patrick, a somewhat stolid child, much to the surprise and horror of her relatives and somewhat vapid friends. This precipitates a move to the country, and all the travails that come with this”

Helen said

“I was surprised by the lack of romance in the novel.  Although Lesley does have one or two love interests, things tend to be one-sided and it’s not until the very end of the book that there’s a hint of an actual romance for her.  I found this quite refreshing as it meant the focus was on other things.”

The Stone of Chastity (1940)

I said

“I found it easy to believe in these people, the things they said and the things they did, and that the Stone of Chastity might be sitting somewhere in the very real village of Gillenham; even though I knew that it was the product of the author’s wonderful imagination and that her plot was exceedingly improbable!”

Lisa said

“There are many funny scenes in this book. My favorite came late in the story, as the Professor plans to cap his research with a public trial of the Stone. He forces the reluctant Nicholas to draw a poster inviting the local women to take part, which he posts (over Nicholas’s objections) on the church door.”

Cluny Brown (1944)

Madame Bibi Lophile said:

“Comic and affectionate, Cluny Brown would be easy to dismiss as lacking depth. But it is so superbly written, with such verve and understanding of human beings, that to do so would be mistake. Invite Cluny into your life, she’ll charm you, I promise…”

Rosemary said:

“Although her uncle had hoped learning how to clean and serve would sober her, Cluny, of course, brings her zest and curiosity with her – and changes the lives of everyone around her, including a few gentlemen who are not prepared for her influence – one in particular.  Of course, the ending is happily ever after – but with a surprising twist.”

Arpita said

“Margery Sharp’s Cluny is truly memorable. She’s slightly ‘off’ just like Sharp’s Martha of the ‘Martha trilogy ‘ and that makes her totally endearing to me. She doesn’t follow societal norms but does follow her instincts. And if that means that she will never know her place in life, then so be it.”

And I know that Juliana and Leaves and Pages have been reading Cluny’s story too.

Britannia Mews (1946)

Lory said:

“The pace of the novel never lets up, and the large jumps in time make it feel a bit breathless occasionally. Overall, though, Sharp makes it work, and packs a huge variety of incident and plot, and also of thought and passion and artistry, into a remarkably compact space — not unlike the Mews themselves. I enjoyed every page of this delightful book, probably my favorite Margery Sharp so far.”

 The Eye of Love (1957)

Audrey said:

“Being someone who’s addicted to series mysteries, I’m always so happy to find the Thirkells and Trollopes and other fictions that work this way, too, and normally I’d try to read them in order, but in this case I started in the middle, then went back, and then went forward.  It didn’t seem to matter: Martha was so well formed that meeting her as a fledgling artist, then a child, then a famous painter made perfect sense.”

Pam said:

“I really enjoyed this book. A quirky tale, concisely told with enough subplots to keep me interested …  There is humour in it. The writing is descriptive enough without being over bearing and the characters came to life for me.”

Madame Bibi Lophile said:

“I adored Martha. Stubborn, self-possessed, strong-willed and lacking any sentimentality, she was just wonderful. Sharp wrote two sequels about this unforthcoming heroine,  ‘Martha in Paris’ and ‘Martha, Eric and George’, which I will hunt down forthwith.”

And Poppy spent the afternoon with this book.

Martha, Eric and George (1963)

Mary said

“A charming book with wonderful characters. It opens with Eric coming home for lunch finding a carrycot with a baby in  …Ten years later Martha returns to Paris with an exhibition of her work. You will just have to read this lovely book to find out if all ends well.”

Audrey said:

“In reading these two books, I was reminded how skilled Margery Sharp is at drawing her characters. Sometimes, it’s because they resolutely remain themselves; other times, it’s because they reveal something surprising, and in Martha, at least, wonderfully, it’s a little of both.”

The Innocents (1972)

Ali said

“It is a much later Margery Sharp novel, first published in 1972 – it has a rather different feel to the two I have read before. The style is much simpler in many ways, and yet there was something about the writing style that jarred with me a little … However, the story itself is lovely, engrossing and readable, and quite moving. Margery Sharp tells a touchingly brave story, one I suspect was not often told even in the 1970s.”

Anna said:

“I loved the descriptions of the village, its physical appearance as well as its spirit, its people. The first part of the novel, which deals with getting to know the child and getting to learn how to meet its needs, is wonderful. (And can be used as a textbook.) Sharp writes well and has a great command over her story.”

The Rescuers (1977)

BuriedinPrint said

“Margery Sharp puts her female mice on centre stage. Madame Chairperson in the Prisoner’s Aid Society dares to speak out of turn, in order to have the case of a particular prisoner heard … In some ways, Miss Bianca is a mouse of the 1950s. She recognises that “there is nothing like housework for calming the nerves”. But in other ways, she is quite the revolutionary.”

Now 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’m still dreaming of finding a copy of ‘Rhododendron Pie’, that oh so elusive first novel.

And I’m really hoping that more of Margery Sharp’s books will be sent back out into the world soon ….

An Invitation to Margery Sharp’s Birthday Party!

Last January, and the January before, we held lovely parties to celebrate Margery Sharp’s birthday.

Here’s a little taste of last year’s event:

Karen read ‘The Nutmeg Tree’ and said:

“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.”

Lady Fancifull read ‘Cluny Brown’ and 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.”

Arpita read ‘Britannia Mews’ and said:

“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!”

Liz read ‘The Foolish Gentleman’ and said:

“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.”

And I could go on, but the most important thing to say that we agreed that it would be lovely to do it again.

So this is your invitation to Margery Sharp’s 112th birthday party 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!

I am so pleased to be able to say that will be the first year that it has been easy to find a book to read – because, since our last party, ten titles have been reissued as eBooks by Open Road Media.

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Paper copies are less easy to come by at the moment, but they can be found. I’ll come back to that in a while.

There is a post back here where I try to explain just what makes Margery so special, and I must direct your attention towards somebody else who loves her has done so much to celebrate her work. Do take a look at The Margery Sharp Blog, whose creator you may know through her writing blog, Genusrosa.

Of course I can’t promise that you’ll love Margery Sharp’s writing, but if you think that you might you really should try her, because many of us who love her really, really love her.

Now, to practicalities:

We have a badge

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We have a bibliography

Rhododendron Pie (1930)
Fanfare for Tin Trumpets (1932)
The Nymph and The Nobleman (1932)
The Flowering Thorn (1933)
Sophy Cassmajor (1934)
Four Gardens (1935)
The Nutmeg Tree (1937)
Harlequin House (1939)
The Stone of Chastity (1940)
The Tigress On The Hearth (1941)
Cluny Brown (1944)
Britannia Mews (1946)
The Foolish Gentlewoman (1948)
Lise Lillywhite (1951)
The Gipsy in the Parlour (1954)
The Eye of Love (1957)
Something Light (1960)
Martha in Paris (sequel to The Eye of Love) (1962)
Martha, Eric and George (sequel to Martha in Paris) (1964)
The Sun in Scorpio (19650
In Pious Memory (1967)
Rosa (1969)
The Innocents (1972)
The Lost Chapel Picnic and Other Stories (1973)
The Faithful Servants (1975)
Summer Visits (1977)

The early books were printed in small quantities, and are very nearly impossible to find, but The Nutmeg Tree became a film and then a play and from then on her books were printed in larger quantities.

‘The Eye of Love’ was in print quite recently, and I’ve picked up used copies ‘The Stone of Chastity’, ‘Cluny Brown’, ‘Britannia Mews’, ‘Lise Lillywhite’, ‘Something Light’ and ‘Four Gardens’ very cheaply, so there are books out there to be found.

It’s also worth checking your library catalogue, because I’ve found other titles in my library’s reserve stock.

I do hope that you will find a book and be part of Margery Sharp’s birthday party.

Do tell me, and please ask is you have any questions at all.

A Thank You Letter after Margaret Kennedy Day

cdaa230926c3c007c899c288598042e5I want to say thank you to everyone who played a part in this celebration of the lovely legacy of books that Margaret Kennedy left to the world.

I found some summer flowers for you all.

Thank you to everyone who found a book to read, and everyone who spread the word.

We covered a wonderful range of titles between us.

The Ladies of Lyndon (1923)

Brona said:

“Young ladies, sisters, domineering mothers, widows, martyring step-mothers and maids. Kennedy gives us time inside all of their heads, and although we may not necessarily sympathise with all of them, we can empathise.  And that’s where the secret to Kennedy’s success lies – her authentic dialogue and believable characters.”

Katrina said:

“James is far and away the most interesting character in the book but he is really only on the periphery which is a real shame. As I said, I enjoyed this but this is the first book by Margaret Kennedy that I’ve read and I’m sure her writing must have developed and improved as her writing career advanced. I’ll be reading more of her later books anyway.”

The Constant Nymph (1924)

Arpita said:

 “The beauty and spirit of this book lies in the Tyrolean chapters, where the children roamed free and uninhibited in the bosom of nature. Teresa, whilst described as being far from beautiful by Kennedy, is always described in the most loving terms by Lewis. Teresa’s constancy of heart can be witnessed at every step of the story, proving to us that this  blessed trait can be found in the very young too. It is a valuable lesson to be reminded of.”

Red Sky at Morning (1927)

Cirtnecce said:

“Margaret Kennedy captures the childhood and the post World War 1 era marvellously. You can so picture the brilliant countryside in spring as well the glittering parties of London, especially the gentle mockery of the London social and theatre scene . You can see the grotesque Monk Hall and you can see Emily’s bedroom in London….the word pictures are completely clear and absolutely delightful.”

Return I Dare Not (1931)

I said

“There is little plot to be found, but the characters and their situations were so very well drawn, and that kept me turning the pages. Margaret Kennedy was clear-sighted, she was psychologically acute, and she made these characters and their world live and breathe. I didn’t stop to think about whether I liked or disliked them, because I was having a lovely time people-watching.”

Together and Apart (1936)

Anbolyn said:

“One of the amazing things about the book is that it hardly feels dated. I felt I could have been reading about a modern family – the same struggles, fears, financial concerns, and child custody and neglect issues as written about in contemporary family dramas appear in this novel.”

The Feast (1950)

Lucy said:

“This author grabbed me by starting with the catastrophic ending.  Because you see, there were survivors.  Some of the guests were enjoying an outdoors party on a nearby cliff when the horrific event happened.  Their flashback stories, along with diary entries of other guests and various letters paint a colorful picture of the lodgers and the week leading up to the disaster.”

Genusrosa said:

“I particularly loved the almost Hitchcockian way that Kennedy employed the natural world to heighten the sense of crisis. The widening cracks in the bluff above; the sudden lack of nesting gulls in the cliffside; the mass exodus of scurrying mice across the patio, the intermittent fall of rocks from above…all tell the reader that the disaster is imminent. The household though, at least until the very last, remains pitifully unaware.”

Lucy Carmichael (1951)

Audrey said:

“When you’re only on a novel’s twelfth page, and you’ve already been introduced to seven characters you’re longing to spend more time with, you probably know you’re in for a good thing.  Even if you’re meeting most of them for the first time through someone who strikes you as a not-very-reliable narrator (not that you’d want her any another way).”

Kirsty said:

“Whilst there is a lot to like in Lucy Carmichael, it perhaps was not as well plotted or constructed as it could have been, and for a tenth novel by such a formidable author, this surprises me somewhat.”

Troy Chimneys (1953)

Helen said

“I was so impressed by the writing and by Margaret Kennedy’s grasp of the period (or periods, as there are really two) in which the story takes place. The Victorian letters felt authentic and Miles Lufton’s own narrative style felt so much like the voice of a Regency gentleman that I could easily forget I was reading a book written in the 1950s and by a woman.”

Christine said:

“I loved the way Margaret Kennedy writes, her portrayal of the characters, the delicate balance of their relationships, and the snippets of period detail. I had no idea what to expect, but I really enjoyed this book, and liked the structure, which had an early 19th century feel to it, very much in keeping with the period in which it is set, and epistolary novels were very popular.”

Ali said:

“Troy Chimneys is a poignant exploration of one man’s inner turmoil, and the lost opportunities that dominate his life. This was a much more engrossing and compelling read than I had possibly expected. The structure is a little unusual as is the subject matter – but I found I quickly got drawn into the narrative of Miles’s story.”

The Wild Swan (1957)

Lyn said:

“‘The Wild Swan’ is a novel that reminded me of other books about writers & their literary afterlives. Like A S Byatt’s Possession & Carol Shields’ ‘Mary Swann’ the central conceit of a writer from the past whose life has been misinterpreted & taken over by modern academics is one that has always fascinated me. The idea that we can ever really know a person from another age, no matter how much material they leave behind is fraught with danger.”

* * * * * *

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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.

And maybe thinking of other underappreciated authors who deserve special days of their own  ….

A Book for Margaret Kennedy Day: Return I Dare Not (1931)

Back in the 1920s Margaret Kennedy’s second novel, ‘The Constant Nymph’, was a huge, huge success. It was one of the bestselling novels of the decade, she adapted it for both stage and screen, and then she gave the world a sequel that would also become a play and a film.

I mention this because I wondered when I read this book whether this 1931 novel – the book that followed that sequel – reflects her feelings about the fame and the demands that her success brought.

Young playwright Hugo Pott is at the centre of the story. He is the man of the moment, with three plays running simultaneously in the West End of London; and he is a genuinely nice young man, largely unspoiled by his wonderful success. But Hugo is on the brink of a crisis. He is beginning to realise that his life is no longer his own, and that he is playing the part of a nice young man unspoiled by success. He is says the right things, he is seen in the right places, he mixes with the right people, he eats the right lunch in the right restaurant …..

He wants to do something different, but he really doesn’t know what.

Hugo has no time to stop and think, because he has accepted  an invitation to a weekend party at Syranwood, the country home of the Lady Geraldine Rivaz. To be invited into the exclusive circle of Syranwood was the greatest of social successes; but he also knew that he would be expected to be witty and amusing for the whole weekend, and to be particularly charming to the notoriously difficult Lady Agneta Melmotte. He wasn’t sure that he could do it – he just wanted to sleep – but he knew that he had to try.

Return I Dare NotThere is drama over the course of the weekend.

The critic Sir Adrian Upward, a man acutely conscious of his social position, is  confronted by his estranged daughter, Solange; a friend of Lady Geraldine’s granddaughter  who has arranged an invitation with the express purpose of clearing the air with her father.

Lady Geraldine’s granddaughter, Lady Laura Le Fanu, has never forgotten her first love, and they meet again, for the first time since they were parted. In the ensuing years Ford Usher had become a famous medical researcher and had risen through society. His mother, the gossip columnist Dulcie Usher, had separated the pair twenty years before, and when she learns that her son has been invited to Syranwood she realises that she may have to act again.

Philomena Grey had been a good wife for years but she was bored, and she decided that it was time to do what she wanted to do. She wanted to seduce the nice young playwright. That distracts Hugo, he fails to entertain Lady Aggie; and when she cuts her visit short he realises that he has failed to play his part, that he is a social failure.

Marianne, Lady Geraldine’s granddaughter sees this and she tries to help. Because she can see that Hugo is quite unlike her grandmother’s other guests; and that he is a genuinely nice young man…

There is little plot to be found, but the characters and their situations were so very well drawn, and that kept me turning the pages. Margaret Kennedy was clear-sighted, she was psychologically acute, and she made these characters and their world live and breathe.

I didn’t stop to think about whether I liked or disliked them, because I was having a lovely time people-watching. Philomena’s behaviour disappointed me, but I still worried that she didn’t realise what the consequences of her actions might be. I appreciated understanding what lay behind that face that Lady Aggie presented to the world. I loved the story of Laura and Ford’s youthful romance. And, most of all, I wondered what would happen to Hugo.

That so much would happen over the course of one weekend was highly unlikely, but that was something else that I didn’t worry about too much. Each story worked and the house party as a whole worked. I appreciated that those stories were all different but that there was a common thread: the consideration of life choice, what a different choice might have meant, and whether a choice could be changed.

I was a little disappointed that the use of certain names was no more than a nice touch; and that some characters and situations were not explored as much as they might have been.

I suspect that this is a book best appreciated if you already know something about Margaret Kennedy’s life and work. I do think that Hugo’s character says much about the author’s own life at that time. I think that Philomena’s story may have sparked ideas for her next book, ‘Together and Apart’. And I can see that she was developing a way of writing here that would mature when she wrote books like ‘The Midas Touch’ and ‘The Feast’.

I have to say that ‘Return I Dare Not’ isn’t Margaret Kennedy’s best book, but it is a very interesting one.

Its conclusion was everything that I hoped it might be.

It was the right ending for this book; for the character and for their creator.

I think it might have signalled the end of the first act of her career and the beginning of the second act.

* * * * * * *

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Now, please do tell me if you’ve read a book for Margaret Kennedy Day. I’ll post a round up once the day is done.

And please don’t worry if you haven’t – Margaret Kennedy posts are welcome on any day of the year!

Margaret Kennedy Day is Coming

A year or two ago, at my old home on the internet, and around the time a number of her novels were reissued, we had a lovely celebration of the literary legacy of Margaret Kennedy.

Audrey read ‘The Ladies of Lyndon’ and said:

“When I read the wonderful opening sentence, I knew I was going to love this book. My second thought was that this could be Jane Austen, writing 100 years later.  But looking back, while there are some Jane-ish echoes here, there’s much more snark and bite.”

Ali read ‘The Constant Nymph’ and said:

“I absolutely loved it, at once fully involving myself with the characters, as I became immersed in the world of ‘Sanger’s Circus’. I think Margaret Kennedy might be an author whose work I will have to read much more of.”

Kirsty read ‘Together and Apart’ and said:

“Kennedy discusses familial relationships and their breakdown throughout the novel ….. Together and Apart, even all these years later, is still an important novel, just as relevant to our society today as it was upon its publication.”

Kaggsy read ‘The Feast’ and said:

“Reading “The Feast” was a hugely enjoyable and rewarding experience and I’m so glad I chose it. In fact, I think it will benefit from a re-read as I was so anxious to reach the conclusion that I’m sure there are many profound little bits I’ve missed.”

Lisa read ‘The Wild Swan’ and said:

I chose this one because I remembered it had something to do with a film production in a small town. As I discovered, that’s true, but it’s rather like saying ‘War and Peace’ has something to do with a battle “

And I could go on, but that was then and we need to talk about now.

Originally it was my intention to celebrate Margaret Kennedy – and a number of other authors – on their birthdays, but when I started to look I found that the birthdays of the authors that I had in mind were clustered together in small periods of time.

Margaret Kennedy’s birthday fell one day before the date shared by Anthony Trollope and Elizabeth Goudge; and I knew that Lory had a celebration planned for Elizabeth Goudge around that time and that April was quite busy with reading events. So that was out.

When I was looking at her biography and wondering what to do another date caught my eye – the date when she was married.

So this is your invitation to Margaret Kennedy Day on  Monday 2oth June 2016.

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 Margaret Kennedy book between now and then, and post about it on the day!

Now, to practicalities.

We have a badge:

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We have a bibliography:

I couldn’t find one definitive source, but I’ve pulled a list together from a number of sources and I think I have pretty much everything that was published in book form.

All of the novels except the last one are in print; and most, but not all, of those titles are print-on-demand.

None of the others are, but, because Margaret Kennedy was hugely successful in the 1920s – and well regarded after that – libraries may well have copes tucked away and there should be used copies out there to be found.

Novels

The Ladies of Lyndon (1923)
The Constant Nymph (1924)
Red Sky at Morning (1927)
The Fool of the Family (1930) sequel to The Constant Nymph.
Return I Dare Not (1931)
A Long Time Ago (1932)
Together and Apart (1936)
The Midas Touch (1938)
The Feast (1950)
Lucy Carmichael (1951)
Troy Chimneys (1953)
The Oracles (US Title – Act of God)(1955)
The Wild Swan (previously published as The Heroes of Clone) (1957)
A Night in Cold Harbour (1960)
The Forgotten Smile (1961)
Not in the Calendar: The Story of a Friendship (1964)

Non Fiction

A Century of Revolution 1789-1920 (1922), history.
Where Stands a Winged Sentry (1941), wartime memoir.
The Mechanized Muse. P. E. N. series (1942), on the cinema.
Jane Austen. Novelists Series No. 1 (1950), biography/literary criticism.
The Outlaws on Parnassus. On the art of the novel (1958), literary criticism.

Shorter Fiction

A Long Week-End (1927), novella – published as a limited edition.
Dewdrops (1928), novella – published as a limited edition.
The Game and the Candle (1928), novella – published as a limited edition.
Women at Work (1966), two novellas – The Little Green Man and Three-Timer.

Plays

The Constant Nymph (1926), written with Basil Dean.
Come with Me (1928), written with Basil Dean.
Escape Me Never! (1934), a dramatisation of The Fool of the Family.
Autumn (1937), written with Gregory Ratoff.
Happy with Either (1948)

And there is one biography – The Constant Novelist by Violet Powell.

Her novels are quite diverse, so please don’t be put off of you don’t like the sound of one; there may well be another that you’ll love.

And, just is case I haven’t convinced you, here is a lovely piece by her granddaughter, novelist Serena Macksey.

I think that’s everything.

I do hope that you will find a book and be part of Margaret Kennedy Day.

Do tell me, and please ask is you have any questions at all.

Welcome Back into the World, Margery Sharp!

There are so many books in the world, the accumulation of years and years of authors writing away, and that is lovely for devoted readers, but it can also be a little worrying. How do we know that we have found the very best books for us? How do we know that the very best book of all is a book we haven’t found yet?

I worry much less about those things since I discovered the work of a wonderful author named Margery Sharp, and that is why I am so thrilled that Open Road Media has taken the first step to introduce her to a wider audience, many of whom I know will fall in love with her, by issuing ten of her works as e-books.

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(You’ll find a rather more concise version of this story on their webside, together with a wealth of interesting articles and any number of desirable books)

I was introduced to Margery Sharp’s writing, quite a few years ago now, by the LibraryThing Virago Modern Classics group, the loveliest group of bookish folk you could every hope to meet. Without them there wouldn’t have been a Beyond Eden Rock, and my reading wouldn’t be anything like as rich and diverse as it is now.

I loved what I read about Margery Sharp, and so I ordered the one book that Virago reissued. It won me over, and as I read more of her work she rose in my estimation and my affections until she reached the highest of heights.

That first book was ‘The Eye of Love’. It tells the story of a middle-aged couple: Miss Diver, 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 Gibson, a stout gentleman who has risen to senior position in retail.

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 love. She made me love them, and she made them utterly real. A flamboyantly 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!

And wrapped around their story is the beginning of the story of Martha, Miss Diver’s orphaned niece-by marriage. 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.

Margery Sharp spins a story that is both lovely and clever in this book. I loaned my copy to my mother because I though she would like it to, and she liked it so much that she pressed my copy on to some of her friends. I loved that she was so evangelical about books that she loved; but one of the consequences of that was that a few of my books – this one included – never came home again. But I’m re-reading it now; an e-book this time around

I mas so taken with that book that I went looking for more of Margery Sharp’s work. I found that all of her other books were out of print, and that many of them were scarce and expensive, but luckily a wise librarian had tucked many of her books away in my library’s reserve stock.

That allowed me to follow Martha through two wonderful sequels – ‘Martha in Paris’ and ‘Martha, Eric and George’. I won’t say too much about them, because I can’t without giving too much away about the early part of the trilogy, but I will say that I loved them.

Martha was honest, she was independent, she followed her instincts rather that social conventions, and she was most definitely a woman taking charge of her own destiny. How can you not cheer that?!

That was something that she had in common with many of Margery Sharp’s heroines. They’re a wonderfully diverse band of women, I’m so pleased that many of them have been sent out into the world again, and you really should meet them all.

‘The Nutmeg Tree’ introduced me to fun-loving Julia Packett, who gave up her daughter to her wealthy in-laws, but who came running when her daughter needed her. She did her level best to find happy endings for all, without ever losing sight of who she was and what she wanted in life. It was great fun, with just enough serious underpinnings to stop it becoming frivolous.

‘The Flowering Thorn’ introduced me to Lesley Frewen, a girl-about-town who – to prove a point – offered to adopt an unwanted infant , saving him from being sent to an orphanage. The story of how she changed her life and of what happened next was bright and witty, and it was thoughtful and emotional too.

‘Cluny Brown’ was another wonderful heroine. She loved life, she didn’t know quite what she wanted from it; but she was curious to explore lots of possibilities When she was sent into service at a country house, by a family who didn’t know quite what to do with her, she carried right on, and the results were marvelously entertaining.

Along the way I discovered that there were a great many people reading and loving Margery Sharp’s books. I can’t mention them all – I don’t know them all – but I must mention The Margery Sharp Blog is such a lovely, lovely celebration of all things Margery.

Margery Sharp’s writing is wonderfully readable, and is so distinctive, I’m quite sure that I could recognise her writing even if her name wasn’t on it now. She is such a good story-teller, she is always acute but almost never unkind, and everything that I have read – by her and about her – makes me think that if we had met I would have liked her enormously.

There are many more books than the ones I’ve mentioned. Some I don’t want to tease you with – at least not today – because they haven’t been reissued. Others I am saving because I want the joy of discovering new books to last as long as it possibly can.

I will write about those books, and continue to celebrate Margery Sharp’s legacy, because I want the ten books out in the world to be a beginning and not an ending. I know that some of the other books are just as good and I want them to be back in print too, and I want paper copies as well as e-books.

I hope that these first reissues will be successful and make that happen.

There is one more book that I must tell you about, because it’s the book that exceeded every expectation I had, the book that really touched my heart, and the book that gave me the push to campaign for Margery Sharp’s books to be brought back into print.

‘The Innocents’ tells the story of a middle-aged spinster who finds herself looking after a friend’s young child for longer that she expected when war breaks out, and the story of what happens when the mother returns and isn’t entirely happy with the way her child is being raised. The twist in the tale is that the child had what we would call ‘learning difficulties’; the lady who cared for her described her as ‘an innocent’.

I won’t write about it at length, because I wrote about it quite recently, for this year’s Margery Sharp Day.

I’ll just say that it may be Margery Sharp’s simplest and quietest book, and that it is elevated by a depth of understanding and real emotional honesty. I only wish that my mother was able to read it because she had a son – and I had a brother – who was ‘an innocent’.

I couldn’t be happier that this book – and nine others – have been sent out into the world again.

Welcome back, Margery Sharp!

Sound the Tin Trumpets! Margery Sharp Reissues are Coming!

I cant’s quite believe it, but I can see that it’s true.

Thank you Open Road Media for sending ten lovely books back out into the world.

And thank you again to all of you who came to the parties on Margery Sharp Day – this year and last year – and to all of the other readers who have celebrated her work and raised the question of why on earth such a wonderful writer wasn’t in print.

I’m quite sure that you made a difference.

I see that those books are due to appear on 12th April.

Let’s take a look at them, and, in case you’re wondering why I’m quite so excited, I’ll point you towards the thoughts of some of Margery Sharp’s legion of admirers.

2016-02-24

Cluny Brown

An unconventional parlor maid upends the lives of an aristocratic family in New York Times–bestselling author Margery Sharp’s delightful comedy of manners set in England before the onset of World War II

Gabi , Lady Fancifull, and Mary all had words of praise for Cluny.

Something Light

In 1950s London, a career girl decides it’s high time she snared herself a husband, in Margery Sharp’s high-spirited New York Times–bestselling novel

Vicki read this book for Margery Sharp Day last year, and Cynthia read it this year

The Nutmeg Tree

Set in 1930s France, Margery Sharp’s witty, warm-hearted novel tells the story of a free-spirited mother who is reunited with her very proper daughter after sixteen years, when her daughter asks her to inspect her fiancé

Audrey, Helen , Karen and Frances were very taken with this tale.

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The Eye of Love

Margery Sharp’s enchanting New York Times–bestselling novel about the profound ways that love can change our view of other people and the world around us

Simon gave us a wonderful account of this book.

Martha in Paris

A young woman sent to Paris to study painting learns lessons about life and love in Margery Sharp’s sparkling novel that features the now-grown-up artistic little girl who first appeared in The Eye of Love

I was very taken with the sequel

Martha, Eric and George

After ten years, a successful painter returns to Paris and the son she left behind on her ex-lover’s doorstep, in Margery Sharp’s sparkling novel that features the artistic heroine of ‘Martha in Paris’.

And Arpita offered her thoughts on the last of the trilogy on Margery Sharp Day this year.

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The Flowering Thorn

A Jazz Age socialite impulsively adopts an orphaned boy in this humorous, heartwarming tale from New York Times–bestselling author Margery Sharp

There’s a lovely account of this book (and almost all of the others at The Margery Sharp Blog.

The Gipsy in the Parlour

In Victorian England, a glamorous, mysterious young woman overturns the lives of a traditional Devonshire farm family, in Margery Sharp’s humorous, heartwarming New York Times–bestselling novel

I was delighted that Cirtnecce found a copy of this book, and that she loved it as much as I did.

The Innocents

Margery Sharp’s most poignant novel, set during World War II and filled with her trademark wit and warmth, tells the story of the powerful bond forged between a British spinster and the unusual little girl left in her care

Barb thought the world of this book, and so did I.

Britannia Mews

Britannia Mews

With heartfelt drama, wit, and brilliant historical detail, this masterfully told family saga spans the Victorian era and World War II and features an unpredictable and passionate heroine who defies the English class system

Ali , Sarah  and Anbolyn all had words of praise for this story

* * * * * * * *

I hope that it won’t be too long until we gave paper books as well as ebooks.

And I hope that we’ll see more of Margery Sharp’s books being revived. There’s ‘Fanfare for Tin Trumpets’, ‘Lise Lillywhite’, ‘The Stone of Chastity’, and many others, including, of course, the oh so elusive ‘Rhododendron Pie’.

This isn’t the end – but it is a wonderful beginning!

A Thank you Letter after Margery Sharp Day

Dod Procter Tulips on the dressing tableI want to say thank you to everyone who played a part in this celebration of the lovely legacy of books that Margery Sharp left to the world.

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)

Audrey said:

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.

Helen said:

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.

Karen said:

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.

Frances said:

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)

Anbolyn said

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.

Mary said:

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)

Ali said:

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.

Arpita said:

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)

Liz said:

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)

Lory Said:

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.

Cirtnecce said:

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)

Simon said:

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)

Cynthia said:

Exactly as the title describes. Something light and delightful.

Martha, Eric and George (1963)

Arpita said:

‘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)

Lisa said:

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)

Kirsty said:

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)

I said:

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 ….