Tuesday, 6 May 2014

I've spent the bank holiday weekend completely engrossed in this 1925 novel by EH Young. (Out of print but an excellent buy for 1p from Amazon.) I have seen this so many times in charity shops and yet never felt quite attracted enough to pick it up ...
And even when I did buy a copy from Oxfam, after discovering that wonderful spinster Miss Mole, I let poor William languish unread on my book pile for months.
What was I thinking of? As I was reading, I kept thinking that, as a family novel, this was as enjoyable as a Dorothy Whipple (and you can't say fairer than that) but with more depth of character.
William is a hugely attractive character, a retired sailor now the successful owner of a small shipping company, happily married to a wife with whom he has little in common - he is as droll as Mr Bennet - and the father of four grown-up daughters and a rather uninteresting son. There is penny-pinching, perversely frumpy Mabel, the eldest, least favourite child and nobody's favourite sister; Dora, whose marriage to an overbearing husband isn't quite as perfect as she makes it seem; Janet, the youngest, still at home, fancying herself in love with her other sister's husband, and struggling to forge an independent life for herself; and Lydia, so heartbreakingly lovely that her father's deep affection  for her - and to a modern reader, this is mildly discomfiting - is almost that of a proxy lover.
But when Lydia runs away from her nice, but unsatisfactory husband - I did wonder if 40 years on, Oliver might have been happier with another good-looking man - the emotional fall-out from her scandalous behaviour rocks the family and her parents' marriage in particular.
EH Young's own unconventional life would have been material enough for a novel.
William was apparently one of the first ten titles published by Penguin and now that I've read it, I completely understand why. It's hard to imagine a reader who wouldn't love it.  Seems like lots of people, though, have discovered this before me.


Mystica said...

Let me go dig this out on Open Library which I discovered two weeks ago. They've got all the older books in e book format so now I have access to all the older authors whom I love and who I will never find in this part of the world!!!

mary said...

What a brilliant resource, Mystica. I've just been over to see.

Tabitha said...

I've never heard of Open Library. Thanks, Mystica. I did enjoy Miss Mole and just ordered William from my local library based on your review. I was just a little shocked by the wikipedia entry on old E.H. Spicy!

Cosy Books said...

Brings back memories of a fun read-along, Mary, and I just love the cover art for that book.
Isn't it wonderful when you finally decide to read a novel that's collecting dust only to discover it's a gem? I felt that way about I'm Not Complaining and kicked myself for assuming it would be a big moan of a story. In my defense though, the title wasn't doing it any favours!

lyn said...

I read this a few years ago & enjoyed it very much. It had been sitting on my shelves for a very long time. This is why I never apologise for my overflowing tbr shelves. I'll read all of those books one day when the time is right.

mary said...

Hope you enjoy it, Tabitha.And I've just ordered Chatterton Square.

I'd forgotten about your read-along, Darlene - but maybe you planted the seed.

I agree, Lyn - except that some never seem to make it to the top of the pile.