Sunday, 18 October 2015
I don't know how this book has escaped the perpetual culling of interesting fiction in the library to make room for computers/coffee bars, but perhaps one of the librarians had some affection for it - because survive it did in the reserve stock and I'm the first person to have checked it out in 25 years. It still has the little cardboard envelope from the days of old library tickets.
And I've been curled up in a ball with it all morning and thoroughly enjoying it. I know I've read one other Lettice Cooper novel The New House - which is a Persephone title - and I know I quite enjoyed it but it wasn't a favourite. (Lettice Cooper is the aunt-by-marriage of the more famous Jilly.)
But maybe because this is a perfect autumnal read for a chilly, damp day, I'm quite engrossed in it. Published in 1938, it opens a few years earlier when the worrying news of the day was the Abyssinia crisis and the politically astute recognised that another war was coming. Mary has escaped from her working-class background in Leeds to achieve a degree and a job on a Fleet Street newspaper, but has been forced to return to work on a provincial paper and care for her semi-invalid arthritic mother. (That's what daughters did, and already I'm thinking that the brother still at home might have pulled his finger out and done up a few buttons for her.) Mary's uncle and aunt are stalwarts of the Labour/trade union movement. There's two prosperous local families, linked by marriage, one solidly Tory, the other more easy-going, and both have lost sons in the war that was supposed to end all wars. Economically, things have picked up but there's still the shadow of the Depression when one family business failed and the nicest son was forced to go to work for a selfmade man whose home is made miserable because he hasn't achieved the same success socially. Sprinkle with snobbery - throw in some misunderstood children and wives ... and so far it's shaping up to be a cross between Dorothy Whipple and Winifred Holtby.
Even better, there's several more Lettice Coopers in the library system, including one set in the 1970s miners' strike which I'm quite old enough to remember. (Please miss, I haven't done my homework, we only had candlelight.)
Now ... should I make the first batch of Welsh cakes of the season? Tea, sugary fingers and a good book are my perfect recipe for Sunday afternoons.