A melancholy list of my most lusted after but elusive titles:
any novel besides Mrs. Lorimer's Family
Molly Clavering, a friend and neighbor of D. E. Stevenson, published at least a dozen novels of her own, but only one, Mrs. Lorimer's Family (1953), seems to have achieved enough popularity (and reprints) to remain available today. It's charming and funny and deserves to be on the same shelf as Stevenson herself, but sightings of any of Clavering's other novels anywhere outside the British Library are as few and far between as really good Nicole Kidman movies…
[I did buy a copy of the Valancourt reprint of He Arrived at Dusk, and was very pleased with the quality of the reprint. Valancourt does excellent work. Sadly, though, I couldn't quite engage with the book and have concluded that Ferguson's other mysteries may just not be for me. Perhaps sometimes the hopelessness of a book is more tantalizing than the book itself?]
the unpublished novels
Maybe it's just because they're so hopeless (never published at all does tend to trump out-of-print for sheer obscurity value), or maybe it's because Gibbons has gradually become one of my favorite writers since Vintage started reprinting some of her lesser known works a year or two ago. Either way, the novels of Gibbons's older years, The Yellow Houses (finished about 1973) and An Alpha (finished about 1980) appear to combine elements of fantasy and spirituality and seem well worthy of publication.
virtually everything except There Were No Windows
Along with Edith Olivier, Norah Hoult is the most completely and unjustly neglected of all the writers I've explored. Persephone revived her wonderful World War II novel There Were No Windows (1944), but otherwise her novels are more or less totally unavailable for sale in the
Most of what I've managed to read has been through Interlibrary Loan from one library in U.S. that (bless its little heart) has kept several of her titles on the shelf. Novels like House Under Mars (1946), also set during the war, and A Death Occurred (1954) richly deserve to be in print and to receive critical attention. Thoughts of what other great novels she may have written that are now virtually nonexistent haunt me in the middle of the night. (Okay, not really, but it does make me really sad…) Texas
A Room in Regent's Park (1942)
The Death of the Nightingale (1948)
Two of Miller's works, Farewell Leicester Square (1941), about anti-Semitism in London, and On the Side of the Angels (1945), about gender relations in wartime, have been reprinted—the former by Persephone, the latter by Capuchin (and by Virago in the 1980s)—and both are lovely and well worth reading. Unfortunately, these two other novels published around the same time have not been so lucky and are out of circulation in
Ding Dong Dell (1943)
None of her novels are very readily available, but this wartime novel that deals with evacuees seems to have vanished from the face of the earth—or at least from
|Finding E. Nesbit's The Lark is no, er, lark|
[No longer hopeless thanks to the kindness of Simon at Stuck-in-a-Book. See my review here for details.]
[No longer hopeless, and, alas, below is not at all an accurate description of the book! I was able to find a reasonably-priced used copy, though I haven't yet gotten around to reading it, but I did discover that it is set pre-war, NOT during the Blitz. Apologies for my misleading description below, which was based on a rather poorly-worded blurb in a short bio of Pargeter. Still hard to believe the book hasn't been reprinted, in light of Pargeter's popularity overall, but it's at least easier to understand why the interest in home front lit hasn't triggered a reprint.]
|Virtually every book Edith Pargeter |
wrote is a dime a dozen--except one
the World War II novels
Although her children's fiction has remained perennially popular, and her largely disacknowledged "romance" novels under the pseudonym Susan Scarlett are almost entirely back in print thanks to Greyladies, only one of Streatfeild's non-romance novels for adults has been reprinted in recent years—Saplings (1945), reprinted by Persephone (bless their hearts). Her other novels, particularly the wartime works The Winter Is Past (1940) and I Ordered a Table for Six (1942), are tantalizing in their apparently total unavailability.
the early novels
Another odd oversight. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (1938) is Persephone's top selling reprint and a really wonderful, charming masterpiece of entertainment and inspiration, but her several other novels—Fell Top (1935), Odd Shoes (1936), Upyonder (1938), and Leave and Bequeath (1943)—remain extinct outside the preserves of the British Library.
A whole slew of other promising World War II novels
The proliferation of novels by women writers during World War II, combined with paper shortages and other wartime factors, inevitably resulted in a lot of perfectly fine novels becoming impossibly scarce way before their time. These include: Hester Chapman's Long Division (1943), mentioned by Barbara Pym in her diaries of the time; The House Opposite (1943) by Barbara Noble, who also wrote the great Persephone find Doreen (1946); Ruth Adam's one and only mystery novel Murder in the Home Guard (1942); Marjorie Wilenski's Table Two (1942), which a contemporary review tells me follows the experiences of a group of elderly women translators in the early days of the Blitz; Tea and Hot Bombs (1943) by Lorna Lewis, also set during the Blitz; and Richmal Crompton's Mrs. Frensham Describes a Circle (1942), the plot of which apparently revolves around refugees. These are all about as rarely spotted as an Abbott's Booby.
|Richmal Crompton, author of the elusive Mrs. Frensham Describes a Circle|
Glad you found us (Valancourt Books). Interesting post and a lot of authors and works I'm not familiar with. We're actively working to include more women writers on our list (at present, the list has only a couple: Hilda Lewis, R.C. Ashby, Jennifer Dawson, and we're trying hard to get some works by Isabel Colegate and Gillian Freeman). I'll have a look at some of these you mention to see if they might be good fits for our list.ReplyDelete
Hi, James. Thanks so much for commenting! I've already come across several interesting works I'd never heard of on your website, and have already ordered the Ashby title. The Hilda Lewis book is tempting me too.Delete
Glad to hear you're looking at other women writers. I always recommend Edith Olivier's quirky and sometimes rather Gothic novels to anyone who will listen, and I wonder if Richmal Crompton's early "horror" and ghost stories might fit your list?
Scott, I managed to find a copy of People of our own for less than $40.00 so I bought it since you suggested it was so rare. So far, I am enjoying it very much. The publisher is a very obscure one I've never heard of (ok, that doesn't mean all that much) and I wondered if that could have been why it is so rare. I belonged to someone named Betty O'Boyle in 1942 and then to a seminary library later on.ReplyDelete
Well, Kristi, they say that great minds think alike. I just ordered a copy earlier today. Until now, the copies I've seen have been in the neighborhood of $100, so what were the chances we'd both find it for less in just a few days? Glad to hear you're enjoying it!ReplyDelete
Hi I just bought Edith Oliver's the underground river for my mum, she said it was a children's book she loved when growing up... Can't wait to see her face when she gets it! I will message back when i get chance to read... :-)ReplyDelete
What a great gift, Matt! I'm sure she'll be thrilled, and I'm happy to know someone else will be reading Olivier! Please do share what you think about it when you have a chance to read it. I'd love to know more about it.Delete
Yeah wasn't easy to find... Had it as a notification on eBay for ages... Must be very rare like u saidDelete
hi there! I have e.nesbits the lark if you're interested! its the 2nd edition one with the red cover! and I know what you mean by rare add i've only ever found one other copy the same as mine on Amazon, but they've took it of now. anyway, my email is email@example.com or you can find me on face book under the same name. thanx and look forward to hearing from you yours sincerely mandiReplyDelete