I blame the arrival last week of Persephone Biannually which is always a treat. Jumping ahead to their autumn list, I discovered a copy of Monica Dickens' The Winds of Heaven on Amazon for 1p. And on Saturday morning it arrived, its 1950s dust-jacket pristine, once I'd flicked it with a duster, and even more desirable than a dovegrey Persephone. At least I think so.
And, of course, I jumped in straight away - and I've only just emerged. I remember my mum reading Monica Dickens back in the 1960s when she was a columnist in the good old days of Woman's Own.
The story is about a widow in her late 50s (when 50 meant that you were past it) who is left penniless by the death of her overbearing husband. Completely dependent on her three grown-up daughters - for a roof over her head, for a new dress, even for a busfare - she lives out of suitcases, passed around her family like an unwanted parcel. Her only friend, apart from a misfit little grand-daughter, is a fat man who sells beds in an Oxford Street department store.
I can see why Persephone chose to publish this in the autumn because it's a real, hugging-the- fire indulgence read. I didn't surface until the overblown ending.
But looking at what I've been reading lately, I feel somewhat overblown myself and gorged on too much 'feminine' literature. I've enjoyed it ... but it's time for something with grit.