This last week, it’s been Mary Hocking Reading Week, hosted as usual by Heaven-Ali, Bello Books have been reissuing her novels (read more here), and I have already read and reviewed “A Time of War“, and was pleased to get this one, its sequel, in, read just under the wire, finishing it yesterday, and I will add a link to this review on Ali’s fabulous round-up of the week’s reading.
I read this one, like “A Time of War”, on my Kindle, but the print books do look lovely, too – I just had a failure to get organised in time, basically!
Mary Hocking – “The Hopeful Traveller”
(03 April 2016 – ebook)
Picking up a few months after the end of “A Time of War”, I really liked this portrayal of the grimness of post-war London – it reminded me a bit of Patrick Hamilton (though his are set earlier) and the Colin MacInnes “Absolute Beginners” series, although these are later – it’s all in the atmosphere.
Kerren has come back to England from Northern Ireland, determined to be independent and take the opportunities she can find, although these are rather thin on the ground and threadbare, and she ends up working in a library, still with her grand plans. She finds herself constantly hungry, not liking to break into the money she has saved. Dependable Cath is a bit of a tart, but living with her parents and trying to find something Useful to do, and Robin is stuck in a suburban marriage, so the book shows the different paths people took after the war, but in a less structured way than the previous book, with its easy plot device of different women stuck in a hut together. I think it makes for a more satisfying read as a result, although there are a few unevennesses.
We meet some new characters: Polish refugee Jan is introduced and has an effect on most of the main characters, and we meet the rather odd Dilys, who is so unattached and floaty that eventually we fear something will happen to her … but where is lovely Adam from the Met. Department and why hasn’t Kerren looked him up?
She does eventually bump into him, of course, and meets the other partners in his publishing firm, grows up but tries hard to retain her essential personality (the few flashes forward which illuminate the characters but don’t give away any spoilers suggest that she does get more subsumed in Life as she gets older) and she learns some lessons about life, the black market and people’s reasons for behaving as they do.
The ending is a little abrupt, but it is satisfying to round off the lives started in “A Time of War”.
This book will suit … although it can be read as a standalone novel, really this will suit people who have read the first book, as you learn what happened to most of the characters in that one.
I’ve got a Michael Cunningham read and ready to review, and I’m taking the opportunity to pick a couple of books off my Pile. The Pile consists mainly of books in series where I haven’t got the books in between the last one I’ve read and the one on the pile (I’ve decided to just read the current ones, having not acquired the intervening ones over the last couple of years, for the couple of these I have left), and books in series I’m currently reading but obviously I won’t put them on the shelf in one block or I’ll be on the one series for months.