Not at Home Doris Langley MooreA lovely novel from by Dean Street Press from their Furrowed Middlebrow imprint today, which I received in January from them, along with two others which I have already read and reviewed, Miss Read’s “Fresh From the Country” and D.E. Stevenson’s “Vittoria Cottage”. I was prompted to dig this one out of my Kindle after seeing the announcement about the new DSP titles coming in August (more of those later) and it was a nice complement to the non-fiction I’ve been reading for 20 Books of Summer. Let’s just look at that cover, too. I do love the house frame they use for all of this series and what a lovely, calm and pretty room which you would not want to be disturbed, would you!

Doris Langley Moore – “Not at Home”

(4 November 2019)

A charming novel of domestic upheaval showing the privations of the post-Second World War period, where Elinor MacFarren, having already sold her and her brother’s beautiful and rare herbals (she’s a botanical illustrator of great talent and she was devastated to lose them as well as her brother; this is certainly not all froth), must share her quiet, lovely house with a woman, recommended by her friend Harriet, who she hates at first sight.

Servant problems and all the petty details of lies and laziness add up, and the effect on her friendship with Harriet is beautifully drawn, but some kind of saving light comes in the form of the delightful, naughty and resourceful Maxine, a rising film star attached to her nephew Mory (who Elinor raised but who is now busy sowing wild oats all over London), from whom she at first recoils but who shows a good heart and loyalty under the brashness and shocking language. Maxine might even be a possible candidate for Mory, but he’s all caught up in a divorce involving someone he’s going off. So there’s drama, but it’s small drama, if you see what I mean.

I spent the whole book worrying about Elinor’s china cats when I should have been worrying about an unfortunate dog who the horrendous Mrs Bankes takes on for a friend then does not care for (animal lovers, there is a bad thing here but I was able to cope with it. Nothing gratuitous apart from the dog being put in to advance the plot as so often happens, but it’s signposted and dealable with).

I really enjoyed the growing friendship between Elinor and her rival collector of botanical prints, Professor Wilton, and her growing tolerance and flexibility and the movement of her moral code are delightful to read about. There’s also great value to be found in these quieter just-post-war novels (like “Peace, Perfect Peace“), which teach us about that interesting time in Britain, and there’s a late passage here full of a real understanding of the privations people have spent six years experiencing, particularly the loss of privacy and one’s own home and possessions.

A good read that has something to say about its own times but stands examination during these times.

Thank you to Rupert at Dean Street Press for sending me this book in return for an honest review.

More Dean Street Press Furrowed Middlebrow titles are coming in August and I’ve been fortunate enough to have been sent a copy of one of them, Ruth Adam’s “A House in the Country” (they sent me “Miss Mole”, too but I’ve already read that so I’m looking forward to a swapsie when they’ve finished formatting the other four they’re publishing then.