Friday, April 18, 2008


In a nod to the celebration of Virago Modern Classics Elaine is hosting on her blog...I have just finished the collaborative effort of Jane and Mary Findlater Crossriggs - a wonderfully witty novel about a young woman, Alexandra Hope, who lives with her 'fruiterian' and slightly loopy father - 'Old Hopeful', her widowed sister and five nieces and nephews in the Scottish village of Crossriggs.

In love with a married man, she chooses spinsterhood over marrying the local Reverend. She seeks work to support her poverty stricken family; in the process meeting an eligible young gentlemen, the grandson 'Van Cassilis' of the local retired Officer to whom she reads. Alex is such an alive character, as Mr Matiland describes it "you [Alex] have a genius for living! You just know how to do it....You're alive, and most of us, with our prudence and foresight and realisation of our duties, are as dead as stones".

This novel had overtones of Little Women. Both are full of young, idealistic women living in poverty! I loved the tone of the Findlaters' writing:

The close sitting room at the Reids did seem very dingy as they came in out of the brave summer world out-of-doors, for Miss Bessie Reid - good woman!- was skilled in all the little arts that make the home hideous. There was a specimen of her handiwork at every turn - a painted tambourine here, a stark water-colour there, whilst miniature animals in crockery seemed to crawl on every ledge. Framed photographs, of all kinds, were everywhere, and a vase in one corner (Alex blushed, as she noticed it, for the obtuseness of the kind heart that had put it there) held a quantity of artificial almond blossom, made out of pink tissue paper and stuck upon thorn branches. Taste I suppose, is only a constant delicate expression of opinion, and Miss Bessie Reid's opinions - poor dear! - must have been singularly confused.

Too Funny! You shall just have to read it...


  1. This sounds absolutely wonderful - love the excerpt. How does one go about a collaborative novel, I wonder? Well, you've certainly piqued my interest. Haven't spotted it before (I tend to note Virago titles I see in charity shops) so shall have to make a more active hunt...

  2. It's now on its way to me from Amazon...