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Review: Making Conversation, by Christine Longford


Pages: 288

Original date of publication: 1931

My edition: 2009 (Persephone)

Why I decided to read: Heard about it through the Persephone catalogue

How I acquired my copy: Persephone subscription, August 2010

I’ve wanted to read it ever since Persephone decided to reprint this forgotten classic. Our main character is Martha Freke, a socially awkward girl who talks either far to much or not enough. She actually sounds a lot like me, so I thought I’d really enjoy reading this book. I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as I thought it would, but I did like it.

Martha is a little less socially awkward as I thought she would be; she’s not the type of person who says things at inopportune moments. She’s actually quite eloquent when she does talk. She is supposed to be socially awkward, but I found myself liking her for her strength of character. She is intelligent and at times very funny in her naiveté.

The novel chronicles Martha’s growth from childhood up through her time at Oxford and into adulthood. Martha’s coming of age coincides with WWI and the 1920s, but the time period takes a back seat to Martha’s story. The tone of the book tends to be very dry at times, which is why the narrative is sometimes hard to follow. I loved especially Martha’s mother, who runs a boarding house with various lodgers who add a spot of color to the story. Sill, I enjoyed watching Martha’s progression through school, university, and adulthood. This is not my favorite Persephone reprint, but it’s a novel that’s a good addition to the canon.

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