Another of the lovely books which will be published by Dean Street Press in their Furrowed Middlebrow imprint in August. This is one from 1956 which has the lovely theme of village life, with its smallnesses but safety, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Here’s a new post from the Furrowed Middlebrow blog about the six new books for August.

Dorothy Evelyn Smith – “Miss Plum and Miss Penny”

(20 June 2020)

A Furrowed Middlebrow novel which seems to be just another portrayal of 1950s village life but has both dark and slightly subversive undertones, which I loved.

Miss Alison Penny lives an orderly, calm life with her housekeeper Ada, her annual letter from her old flame George on her birthday and her friendships with fussy Stanley with his perfect residence and chaotic vicar Hubert (both of whom consider whether they should just get on and marry her during the course of the book, with no discussion with her!) and the rest of the village.

The book opens on her 40th birthday, when there’s no letter from George (leading Ada to display a charmingly gruff displeasure) and she somehow saves Miss Plum from herself when out for a trip and finds herself taking her in, gradually realising that Miss Plum is both taking her over, and taking everyone else in.

When a figure offers Alison escape from her humdrum existence, will she take it, worries Ada. Her outburst when made the offer gives us a clue, and is very sweet. Meanwhile, Stanley worries if his very ordered existence is enough, and will Hubert ever manage to reconnect with his son, who is in a particularly annoying phase of teenage arrogance.

Everyone except Ada seems to be taken in by Miss Plum, and we wonder how Miss Penny will ever pluck up the courage to get rid of her (I liked the comparison with “Not at Home” in this aspect). We can only hope that the natural order of things will prevail.

I love the village surrounding the action and the little moments that are not laboured but are poignant (for example when a returnee to the village has an encounter with the love that Ada lost, which we will only notice if we picked up the details she recalls). I really enjoyed the celebration of Miss Penny’s secure place slotted into the community:

Everybody in the village was known to her and she to everybody. Wherever she went there was a voice calling, the nod of a head, a grumble, a cup of tea, an item of gossip.

Engaging and quietly satisfying – and I loved the ending!

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

I’m continuing with my 20BooksOfSummer at the moment, with two to finish and review by the end of the month, and then I have some delicious Shiny and other review copies to read. Hooray!