Skip to main content

Review: No Angel, by Penny Vincenzi


Pages: 724

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.

Comments

Eralk said…
I hate it when an author pulls "nick of time" things too often. Everyone can do one, good authors can do more. But it just strains credibility.

Popular posts from this blog

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Pages: 972 Originally published: 1944 My edition: 2000 (Chicago Review Press) How I acquired my copy: Amazon.com, 2004

Forever Amber takes place in the 1660s, immediately follwing Charles II's ("the Merry Monarch") return of the Stuarts to the English throne. The book features Amber St. Claire, a young woman who starts out as a sixteen-year-old country girl, naieve to the workings of the world. She immediately meets Bruce Carlton, a dashing young Cavalier, with whom she has a passionate love affair in choppy intervals throughout the book. They have two children together, but Bruce won't marry her for the reason he tells his friend Lord Almsbury: that Amber just isn't the kind of woman one marries.

Upon following Bruce to London, he goes to Virginia, leaving her to fend for herself. What follows is a series of affairs and four marriages, with Bruce coming back from America now and then. Amber's marriages are imprudent: her first husband is a gambler, her second is…

Review: Jane Austen's Letters, ed. by Deirdre Le Faye

Pages: 667 Original date of publication: 2011 My copy: 2011 (Oxford University Press) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Amazon.com, April 2013
This is a compilation of many of Jane Austen’s letters, most of them sent to her sister Cassandra between 1796 and 1817, the year of her death. Although many of Austen’s letters were destroyed by her sister in order to preserve the family reputation, the collection contains over 160 letters in which Austen gives her sister details about her life in Chawton—as well as giving us a tantalizing glimpse of what was going through her mind as she was writing her novels (especially the novel that was to become Pride and Prejudice, First Impressions). There are other letters here, too, giving advice to her niece and professional correspondence to publishers—as well as a couple of letters that were written by Cassandra Austen after Jane’s death.
To the sisters, the letters acted in the way that phone calls do today; Austen’s news is all about pe…

Review: Midnight in Peking, by Paul French

Pages: 259 Original date of publication: 2013 My copy: 2013 (Penguin) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Phoenix bookstore, May 2013
In January 1937, the body of a young British girl, Pamela Werner, was found near Peking’s Fox Tower. Although two detectives, one British and the other Chinese, spent months on the case, the case was never solved completely, and the case was forgotten in the wake of the invasion of the Japanese. Frustrated, Pamela’s father, a former diplomat, tried to solve the crime. His investigation took him into the underbelly of Peking society and uncovered a secret that was worse than anything he could have imagined.
At first, I thought that this would be a pretty straightforward retelling of a true crime, but what Paul French (who spent seven years researching the story) reveals in this book is much more than that. Foreign society in Peking in the 1930s was stratified, with the British colonials at the top and the White Russian refugees at the bottom, but…