Skip to main content

Review: I'm Not Complaining, by Ruth Adam

Pages: 346
Original date of publication: 1938
My edition: 1984 (Dial Press)
Why I decided to read: read it for All Virago/All August
How I acquired my copy: the Philly Book Trader, August 2010

I’m Not Complaining is a somewhat ironically-titled novel about a schoolteacher living in a working-class town in the 1930s. Madge Brigson is thirty, yet she calls herself and the other teachers she works with spinsters (ha! What does that make me?). The novel deals with the life of the school, the teachers, pupils, and the bleak, desperately poor town the school serves.

It’s definitely not an uplifting novel, made more depressing by Madge’s bleak outlook on her own situation. Madge is sensible and smart and devoted to her job, but she does have her flaws-cynicism being among them. There’s no sugar-coating any aspect of her life, and she has zero tolerance for foolishness. Madge is the type of character who complains about her lot in life while not trying to change it. It’s as though she enjoys complaining for the sake of complaining!

I did enjoy the author’s descriptions of the other teachers at the school. Jenny is the youngest, beautiful and also rather promiscuous (there’s a scene at the beginning that deals quite candidly with an affair she has that must have been more shocking for a reader when the book was published); Freda the communist; and Miss Jones, a spinster who sweetly dreams about the day when she can be reunited with her “friend” who’s in the Navy. Ruth Adam’s novel is extremely realistic in it’s depiction of a depression-era town, where people are losing their jobs. The author does a fantastic job of balancing the stories of the women who teach at Bronton school with the people of Bronton itself. I thought that the ending of the book happened a little too quickly and came from literally nowhere, but Madge’s decision is pretty true to her character.


Mystica said…
Obviouly brutally honest!

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:, 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:, 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…