Thursday, 19 October 2017

A Not Very Old Book and A New Book

book cover of Part of the Furniture
 Two books read last week.

First the not very old - actually only 1997 - Mary Wesley's "Part of the Furniture".

Juno Marlowe is an innocent 17 year old unwanted by  her mother and disliked by her Aunt. She has spent most of her time hanging around the neighbouring farms, worshiping two older boys........... although they usually fob her off to the farm-workers or game keeper. In 1939 they persuade her to see them off in London when they go to join the war effort. Not wanting to join up as virgins they use her without her even realising that it was virtually rape.

Juno doesn't want to follow her mother and her new husband to Canada so  waits in London for a refund for her boat ticket. Caught in an air-raid she is hauled in off the street by a very ill man who dies during the night after writing a letter to his father and asking her to deliver it. With the money from her refund and nowhere else to go she takes a train to Cornwall to deliver the letter. Here, because of her knowledge of farming - milking cows firstly - she is made welcome by Robert the farmer and his housekeeper Ann. At last she isn't just part of the furniture. There is much more to the story than that but I don't want to do a spoiler for people who've not read it.

Reading through what I've just written it sounds like far-fetched rubbish! But Mary Wesley doesn't write rubbish as I've only recently discovered. An interesting author who I knew nothing about until reading "The Camomile Lawn" last month. Her first novel was published when she was aged 70 and she then went on to write 10 best selling novels. After a strange upper-class childhood she married twice and was awarded the CBE. There is a good obituary of her HERE.

The new book was by Ann Cleeves. The 8th and latest in her crime series featuring Vera Stanhope. Of course now this series has been made into TV programmes starring Brenda Blethyn it's impossible to read the book without seeing Ms Blethyn in the roll.

book cover of The Seagull Set as usual in the North East of England, mostly in Whitely Bay this time.Vera visits the prison where a corrupt ex-policeman offers her information about a cold case involving  a missing man if she looks out for his daughter and grandchildren. Unfortunately for Vera the people involved were all friends of Hector, her late father, and uncovering the mystery of two bodies, a missing woman and the man now responsible for the regeneration project- who once ran a club called The Seagull- may lead her to things she would rather not know about.

It's quite a complicated book with lots of characters, I shall be interested to see how they shorten and change it when it's made for TV.

Two completely different books, both good in their own way.

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  1. If I had to choose Harnessing Peacocks is my favourite Mary Wesley but all of them are enjoyable.

  2. I read and grew up with Mary Wesley's books as they were published in the 80s and 90s. I've never seen a TV adaptation as I was TV-less during this period. In fact even today I settle down with a good novel in the evening rather than watch TV. I've never really got on with crime novels but I listened to a dramatisation of Ian Rankin's Fleshmarket Close on the radio the other week and it took me back to reading the novel while staying in College Hill House (next door to Rosslyn Chapel) one freezing January and exploring Edinburgh. Currently halfway through The Sparsholt Affair by Alan Hollinghurst, a fresh from the press library copy. Not exactly my cup of tea but I appreciate his writing.

  3. I don't think I have ever read anything by Mary Wesley but that will be changing when I find a copy of this book.
    Not quite sure about The Seagull.

  4. I haven't read a Mary Wesley novel for years and I've never read this one, it sounds like I should though.

    I don't like crime novels but I do like the tv adaptation of Vera so I'll watch out for that story on the box :-)

  5. I read lots of Anne Cleves books before the tv series, I was disappointed with the choice of Vera and it put me off watching. Trouble is when you read the books first you get a picture in your head of the person and the films etc don't match,

  6. Oh I enjoyed the TV adaptation of Harnessing Peacocks but I love love loved The Camomile Lawn!

  7. Like Briony I have read a lot of Anne Cleaves - not Vera but the Shetland series. Great books by the way. Did not like the television series one bit. The lead actor didn't 'look anything like' the way I imagined Jimmy Perez to look ~ Cathy

  8. I really like Anne Cleaves. I haven't read a great many as they are sometimes hard to find here in Canada, but the ones I have managed to get my hands on I have really enjoyed.

    The first book sounds very intriguing. I have written it down and will look for it the next time I am in the library.

    God bless.

  9. I love Mary Wesley and have read all of her books. Have you seen the tv version of Camomile Lawn?

  10. Hope Colin is fighting fit again.
    I enjoy both the authors you have written about. Mary Wesley has some interesting insights and sits alongside Joanne Trollope on my shelf.
    I'm delighted because you've just given me a new title to seek!
    At present I'm reading number 4 of the "Vera" book series together with the Cazalet series by Elizabeth Jane Howard. I've never read these before and am finding them fascinating as a social study of the times.
    I nearly always enjoy, or have already read and enjoyed, your book recommendations. Thanks. Sue

  11. It only surprises me that you have taken so long to discover Mary Wesley.

  12. Lovely to hear that you have enjoyed Mary Wesley's book, Sue. She was indeed a remarkable lady. As I might've mentioned before, so I won't labour the point, I was one of the last writers to interview her before she died. I interviewed her in her cottage behind the High Street in Totnes. Her reputation of not suffering fools gladly went before her and I was very nervous, but she was lovely, she really was. We had coffee in her lovely sitting room, each of us on either side of the fireplace.
    However, although she didn't write her first adult novel until she was 70, she had been a writer long before then, completing her husband's journalism when he was, how shall I say, "tired and emotional"? And she also wrote a couple of children's books, too. By coincidence, Mary's books sit next to *Joanna Trollope's books on my bookshelves, too - snap, Beachcomber! My Cazalet Chronicles live upstairs on an Edwardian revolving bookcase along with my Persephones.
    Margaret P
    *I also interviewed Joanna Trollope in 2002 on the publication of her novel, Girl from the South. She, too, is a lovely person, very kind and considerate, and an excellent novelist.

    1. That's really interesting to hear about your interviews Galant and amusing that some of our tastes are similar.
      I looked for your blog but both of them seem to be unavailable. Sue

    2. My blog is at That should get you there, Beachcomber. It's called Devon Dreaming but since I had problems with it earlier in the year a new web designer just put it up under my own name, Margaret Powling.
      Margaret P

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  14. I like MW books but I've never read this one, will have to keep an eye out.
    Lisa x