Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Foolish Gentlewoman

I picked up The Foolish Gentlewoman when the cover attracted my attention. I didn’t know the author – Margery Sharp – but have since discovered that she wrote the children’s book called The Rescuers. I think I may have read it as a child as it seems familiar. The Foolish Gentlewoman is just gorgeous, blissful reading.

Again, this story is set at the end of WW2. Isabel Brocken, a childless widow, lives at Chipping Lodge a Victorian manor on the outskirts of London. She offers a home to her conservative elder brother-in-law while his home is rebuilt (it having been bombed in the blitz). Also sharing the house is Jacqueline, a former ATS, who acts as Isabel’s companion, and Isabel’s young, recently demobilised, nephew Humphrey. All is going well until Isabel’s rector gives a sermon on the “passage of time not making a base action any less base”. Isabel is filled with remorse about something she did to her cousin/cum-companion, Tilly Cuff, in their youth. To make amends for this she asks Tilly to come and stay; and decides to give her all her money. No-one, least of all Simon, can convince her to do otherwise. Tilly takes up the invitation and is tiresome in the extreme. A gentle tale unfolds as Isabel tries to ‘like Tilly’; while the others try to survive her/ get rid of her.

A favourite passage:
On Mr Brocken (Simon) – “It was his habit to avoid people whenever possible, in case they became a nuisance. For Simon was profoundly convinced that all people became a nuisance sooner or later: logic and arithmetic informed him that the fewer people one became involved with, the less danger one ran of being annoyed. Carrying his inviolability like a precious cup of water, Mr Brocken returned up the hill to Chipping Lodge”.


  1. I've read this! Though not with such a lovely cover - mine is just the plain yellow hardback, without any dustjacket. I actually bought it because PG Wodehouse mentioned it in a letter, collected in The Performing Flea. A few years ago now, but I remember really enjoying it.

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