Original date of publication: 1939
My copy: 2009 (Bloomsbury)
How I acquired my copy: Borders, November 2010
Miss Hargreaves is a novel of pure fantasy. Norman Huntley is a young man who lives in the cathedral town of Cornford and possess quite an imagination. As his father says to him, “Always be careful, my boy, what you make up. Life’s more full of things made up on the Spur of the Moment than most people realize. Beware of the Spur of the Moment. It may turn and rend you.” This novel is all about what happens when Norman forgets these words of advice.
It all happens one day when Norman and his friend Henry visit a church in Ulster and make up an eccentric elderly woman in her 80s named Constance Hargreaves. It all seems like harmless fun—until Miss Hargreaves actually comes to Cornford and begins to wreak havoc on Norman’s life.
At first I thought this was a charming novel—I liked Miss Hargreaves herself a lot. But as I continued to read, I thought that the joke got to be a bit wearisome after a while. After a while I found myself resenting Norman—he tries to ignore Miss Hargreaves or otherwise treat her badly pretty much throughout the book. He’s also incredibly dismissive of people from his real life, such as his parents or girlfriend. Call me cynical or whatever, but I just didn’t sympathize with him. The plot doesn’t seem to move anywhere for a while. As such, the book could probably have been cut down to the length of a novella instead.