Original date of publication: 2000
My edition: 2006 (Headline)
Why I decided to read: came across this book browsing in a bookshop in 2000
How I acquired my copy: Waterstones, Piccadilly, London, September 2009
No Angel is the first in a trilogy about Lytton’s publishing house, especially Celia, a young girl who marries into the family in 1905 by getting herself pregnant. This particular book covers the Edwardian period up until the 1920s.
It’s a great story, with some great characters, not the least of which is Celia herself. She’s not the most likeable character; indeed, sometimes I found myself wishing she wasn’t so headstrong, so spoiled, so determined to get what she wants no matter what. But you also have to admire a woman like Celia, despite her faults. The author’s descriptions of the publishing industry are very detailed, though I thought at times that she was describing the modern publishing industry rather than that of the 1920s.
The plot moves swiftly; therefore, this book is an incredibly readable one. The author is very fond of the “in the nick of time” school of writing—for example, Celia and Oliver are just about to go on a voyage on the Titanic, and one of the children gets sick… and then nobody tells Celia about it, until the son does, on the eve of departure. I understand the motive behind writing like this, but after several instances of this, I got a bit tired of it.
There are also a few moments where I just didn’t believe it. For example, right out of the blue, Celia decides to up and join Maud Pember Reeves’s Fabian Society. Her efforts lead her to the random adoption of Barty, a young girl who quickly becomes a part of the Lytton family. I just didn’t buy the whole thing, especially since the Miller family seemed very stereotypical and their home a very cleaned-up version of the real thing. And I just didn’t like the relationship between LM and her working-class lover, something that probably wouldn’t have happened in real life. Despite the things I didn’t like about this book, however, I actually did enjoy reading this book. It’s rather soap opera-ish in many places, but it’s an easy read.