Thanks again to Open Road Media for making this, my second Margery Sharp book of the day, available to the general public after years out of print, and to me in a review copy. Having read “The Foolish Gentlewoman” for Beyond Eden Rock’s Margery Sharp Day , I was very excited to hear about these ebook reissues, and I count myself fortunate to have read two such lovely books in two happy weeks. Here’s the review of “Cluny Brown” I published earlier today.
Margery Sharp – “The Nutmeg Tree”
(ebook – acquired in March 2016)
Another absolutely delightful read, with the shade in this one being provided by the underlying thought of what would happen to lone women if they were not able to find some kind of protector, and how adventures could end up being punished harshly. But there’s very little shade in this lovely story, set in the South of France and with a cast of excellent and rounded characters.
Risque and naughty Julia, who appeared in my inner eye like one of those jolly Beryl Cook ladies cavorting with a glass of champagne, who is so in the 1930s, not a time known in Britain for relaxed morals and cheeky behaviour, is living a rackety life supported by all manner of dodgy men when she’s summoned to the side of her straight-laced daughter, Susan, who has developed a fiancé of whom her grandmother, who has brought her up after effectively paying off Julia, does not approve.
With only a minor adventure in a French circus to distract her, Julia sets off for the genteel setup in France and tries to rein herself in – while still having the odd adventure, of course. She’s very resourceful but finds it stressful to tamp down her exuberant personality for so long, and she quickly recognises the fiancé as being very much one of her type. To make matters worse, she falls for Susan’s other guardian – but he must be terribly conservative, too, mustn’t he? Well, he’s got more too him than that, thank goodness, and everything is in danger of coming out beautifully. But first Julia must try to sort everything out, while pretending to love views and trees and all manner of things.
Sharp’s clear and wry eye for hypocrisy is well in here, and she has a lot of fun with her characters – but, as always, kind fun, not mean fun.
This book would suit: Anyone who loves mid-century women writers, who perhaps enjoyed “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day” or others of the lighter Persephones, or wants to explore this wonderful writer further.
This book completes 1937 in my Century of Reading.
You can find the links to buy the Cluny Brown ebook on various platforms here. I was provided with pre-acceptance to download the NetGalley version by Open Road Media in return for an honest review. The image used here is from their website.