Saturday, October 22, 2011

Short reviews

I’m really, really behind on review-writing, so I thought I’d write a few short reviews instead to get caught up...

Miss Mole, by EH Young
Pages: 288
Original date of publication: 1930
My edition: 1984 (Virago)
Why I decided to read: it’s on the list of Virago Modern Classics
How I acquired my copy: The Strand, New York, April 2011

The story of a middle-aged nanny/companion/nurse/housekeeper. Set in EH Young’s fictional city of Radstowe (based on Bristol), Miss Mole’s sharp tongue keeps getting her into trouble. A very witty novel, but not my favorite by this author, because the pace of the book is rather slow at times. 3 stars.


The Group, by Mary McCarthy
Pages: 437
Original date of publication: 1963
My edition: 2009 (Virago)
Why I decided to read: it’s on the list of Virago Modern Classics
How I acquired my copy: Waterstone’s, Piccadilly, September 2011

The Group is the story of eight roommates from Vassar living in New York City in the 1930s. Although the author is extremely candid about topics such as sex, marriage, and other “forbidden” subjects, I felt that at times the author was merely trying to be provocative, without actually adding much to the story line. Because there are so many main characters, it’s also hard to keep track of them at times, and I felt that several of their stories didn’t wrap up so well at the end (or they were too well wrapped up). That said, I thought that McCarthy’s depiction of recent college graduates living in the “big city” was right on (even though I did it 70 years later, things haven’t changed much!). 3 stars.


Testament of Youth, by Vera Brittain
Pages: 661
Original date of publication: 1933
My edition: 1999 (Virago)
Why I decided to read: it’s on the list of Virago Modern Classics and 1001 Books to Read Before You Die.
How I acquired my copy: South Bank Book Market, London, September 2011

Testament of Youth is Vera Brittain’s extremely in-depth autobiography of her childhood, years spent as a volunteer nurse during WWI, and the years spent afterwards as a student at Oxford. It covers her relationship with Roland and burgeoning friendship with Winifred Holtby (towards whom, interestingly enough, Brittain felt antagonistic when they first met!) Although Brittain conveys to her reader the sadness and pointlessness of war, I felt that the book could have benefitted by being about 100-200 pages shorter. 4 stars.


The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton
Pages: 270
Original date of publication: 1973 (this selection)
My edition: 2006 (Virago)
Why I decided to read: it’s on the list of Virago Modern Classics
How I acquired my copy: London Review Bookshop, September 2011

The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton is a collection of 11 stories that are not so much traditional ghost stories as supernatural-themed ones. I didn’t know what to expect going into it, because they’re definitely a departure from the two Edith Wharton books I’ve read, The House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence. Despite that, I enjoyed these stories—perfect reading for fall and Halloween! 4 stars.


Company Parade, by Storm Jameson
Pages: 345
Original date of publication: 1934
My edition: 1985 (Virago)
Why I decided to read: it’s on the list of VMCs
How I acquired my copy: 10th St. bookstore, August 2011

Set in the years just after WWI, Company Parade is about a young writer, Hervey Russell, who comes to London to work as an advertising copywriter. Her husband is in the Air Force still, and her young son is still in Yorkshire. This is a novel with good characterization, although I thought Hervey was a little hypocritical; she doesn’t feel guilty about her relationship with Jess Gage, but she’s really hurt when she finds out that her husband has had an affair… but I did love the author’s descriptions of London, especially the Piccadilly area. 4 stars.

1 comment:

Rose said...

Yes, I thought similar thoughts about the Testament of Youth, striking, poignant but could have done with a harder edit. And I've had The Group on my to-read list for a while but not yet got round to it...

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