The last of my reviews from 2018 – I just could NOT shoehorn another post onto the blog, could I! This was an ebook kindly sent to me by Dean Street Press in their Furrowed Middlebrow imprint, and in fact there’s a brilliant review on Scott’s own Furrowed Middlebrow blog which pulls out a few quotations I loved, so here’s a link to that, too. The covers are so pretty aren’t they – reproductions of the original, and who hasn’t felt a bit faint and green on a sofa over the holidays, right? and with the lovely framing and font. This one’s out on January 09 in Kindle and paperback so not long to wait – they’ve also done all the Mrs Tim ones and I was lucky enough to receive one of those, too – review to come soon.

Elizabeth Eliot – “Alice”

One of the things I really like in a book is a particular almost flat, artless tone: think Barbara Comyns (though this is not quite so gruesome as she can be), Margery Sharp a lot of the time, or Dodie Smith’s books for adult readers or, I always maintain, Victoria Clayton’s modern novels. Stevie Smith, too, if you move away from the massive whimsy and get a little less poetic, and definitely Rachel Ferguson’s “The Brontes Went to Woolworths”. So if you like those, you will like Eliot, and I can’t wait to get my hands on more of her books.

This charming, sometimes slightly bleak, always readable (it kept me up until midnight on New Year’s Eve, something I positively pride myself on not seeing in) novel takes us through the lives of the narrator, Margaret, with her glam mum and life living at her grandmother’s various houses, and her best friend Alice, who she always somehow fears for, from their school days (in a great odd school, again something I love in a book) through finishing school, courtship, a bit of marriage here and there and what we will delicately call relationships. We even go onto the stage and meet a whole cast of supporting characters who sway Alice’s opinions and morals here and there until she hardly knows whether she’s coming or going. Things are a bit mannered but never arch, and there are some glorious set pieces, but there’s always a string of angst beneath the hilarity (you know you’re reading a novel that’s a bit different when a character worries that the ship she’s travelling on is going to sink, not because of an accident or incident but because the laws of physics have suddenly changed).

There are so many wonderful turns of phrase, from mothers flapping out to greet one like a hen to mullings over the exciting lives servants lead compared to the people (well, women) they serve. A quirky and fun novel which you won’t be able to put down, and you hardly know which character to root for. Thank you to DSP for a great final read of the year!