It’s happening on 25th January – her 110th birthday – and the plan is for as many people as possible to read one of Margery’s books and post about it on her birthday. You don’t have to have a blog, you can post on Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook, Librarything, Booklikes – wherever you like! I’d just ask that you tell me about it, so that I can share your post and include you in the round-up that will follow a day or two after the event. All of the details – a badge, a bibliography, and links to lovely reviews – are here.
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I’m still not sure what I’m going to read for the day, but I think it will be one of these three:
The Flowering Thorn
The Sun in Scorpio
Or it might be time to read ‘The Innocents’ – which is sublime – for the third time and see if I can finally find the words to explain just how wonderful it is.
In the meantime I’ve re-read Margery’s penultimate novel, ‘The Faithful Servants.’ It was published in 1975, when she was seventy years old and, though it isn’t her best work, it still has much that is wonderful.
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In Victorian England the family of Joseph Arbuthnot, a roguish elderly gentleman, were waiting for him to leave this life, anticipating a nice legacy. He confounded them with one final act of devilment. He left his entire fortune to create a foundation that would support faithful servants in need of charity.
Old Jacob named The Copstock Foundation after his loyal housekeeper, suggesting that maybe she had been rather more to him than that.
The family was confounded but they fell in line, putting forward various members to act as trustees over the years.
The books follows the family history and interesting cases presented to the trustees over the years that followed.
My favourites stories told of:
- Miss Quartermaine and Miss Xavier, who would live happily together a London flat.
- The maid who applied to support a lady who claimed to have been a Russian Grand Duchess.
- Mrs Crankshaw, a cook whose first request was for a glass of port.
A string of character sketches reflect the changing world over the course of nearly a hundred years. They’re very nicely observed and drawn; laced with wit and balanced with a clear-sighted understanding of the harsh realities of life for some. Sometimes the story is cosy, but there are moments that are – quite rightly – a little uncomfortable.
I would have liked to spend a little more time with the different applicants and a little less time with the trustees. Their dealing with the applicants were wonderfully entertaining, and they learned ever so many lessons along the way, but when they were on their own they were just a little bit dull. And I do agree with a review I read that suggested Margery Sharp was at he best when she followed the life of a single character through a novel.
But, that said, these sketches are lovely; there are many wonderful – and surprising – moments; and I was so pleased when Margery pulled a thread from the past to bring the story together, as she had done so cleverly in earlier books. There are things in this book that nobody else could do as well as Margery Sharp, and it is a very fine entertainment.
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Now, just one more thing – what are your plans for Margery Sharp day?!