Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The TBR list grows longer (2 of 2)

Anne Marreco's frequent pseudonym

In a post a couple of weeks ago, I discussed eleven writers added to my Overwhelming List in its most recent update whose work seemed to have potential to be highly readable light and/or humorous fiction (or, in a couple of cases, memoir). This post explores fifteen more authors, these more serious-sounding (at least from what limited information I have about them so far) than the first batch, who seem of particular interest and who may be worth hauling out the interlibrary loan privileges for.

I haven't singled out very many children's authors from this update, but I'm intrigued by one title in particular by MARJORIE DIXON. The Red Centaur (1939, written under her maiden name, Marjorie Mack) doesn't seem to have been written for children, though Dixon certainly wrote a handful of later children's titles, but rather seems to be a novel for adults that uses a child's perspective. This excerpt from a 1939 Spectator review by no lesser figure than Graham Greene may give you an idea of why I'm intrigued:

Miss Mack's achievement is equally difficult—to tell a romantic story about Brittany (an aristocratic French family, a first love affair and an arranged marriage) through the eyes of an English child without laying a feminine claim to sensitivity. So often such books are like a continuous boast: Look what I notice; look how tenderly I feel. This is an admirable novel which shows no sign of being a first: quiet and unurgent, written in a prose exactly adapted to the subject: no strain, no overtones. Sometimes one remembers Tchehov: the sadness of revisiting a loved place after a few years' absence—the new villa above the beach, the unbearable children in what had been one's private cove.

Apart from Greene's somewhat irritating reliance on colons, this is an enticing review. One of Dixon's later titles—presumably this one was written for children—is The Forbidden Island (1960), about the "wonderful and sometimes sinister world of fairies." Goodness!

Alethea Hayter's pseudonym for
several early novels

It's strange that I've never come across ALETHEA HAYTER before, as she was quite a well-known biographical writer and critic—most famous for A Sultry Month (1965), which traces the lives of the Brownings and others in one month in 1847 (and is now reprinted, along with some other of her non-fiction, by Faber Finds). But the explanation for her absence probably lies in the fact that her five early novels all appeared under her pseudonym, J. C. Fennessy. I'm particularly interested in The Siege of Elsinore (1948), which imagines a marriage between Hamlet and Ophelia, but tracking down a copy may be a challenge.

Also noted for her non-fiction—particularly her critical texts about English poets—is RACHEL TRICKETT, but like Hayter she also wrote five well-received novels. Her Guardian obit said "all her five novels show a remarkable understanding of matters of the heart, and an approach to them which is at once melancholy, perceptive and humorous." I'm sold. The titles are The Return Home (1952), The Course of Love (1954), Point of Honour (1958), A Changing Place (1962), and The Elders (1966).

Perhaps a confession is in order that I've already made an interlibrary loan request for one of HELEN FOLEY's nine novels. Admittedly it could be a disappointment, but A Handful of Time (1961) was not only a Book Society Choice, but I found this fragmentary review:

The novel spans the period from Munich through WWII to its confused aftermath. It takes place in Cambridge—the Cambridge of donnish intrigues and undergraduate affairs. The relationship of two young women straddling the war years. Beautifully executed & observed middle class Cambridge and Austria based characters. And the frailties of being human.

Hmmmm. Now admittedly this is not a terribly detailed review, and it could certainly go either way, but I was intrigued enough to give it a try (assuming the ILL request comes through). If it pays off, perhaps I'll check out other of her novels, including The Traverse (1960) and Fort of Silence (1963), which are about troubled marriages, Between the Parties (1958), about an affair, and The Grand-Daughter (1965), for which I found the following description: "Eighteen- year-old Sophie experiences a romance which is moonshine and Scottish magic and also comes up against the truth of her unusual family." Potential?

I came across V. TORLESSE MURRAY in the advertisements at the back of Kate Horn's Edward and I and Mrs. Honeybun, which I mentioned here a while back. Technically, I don't know nearly enough about her to include her as an intriguing author—she wrote three novels in three years, then vanished into the literary mists, and details of the three are sparse—but you'll know why I've listed her here when I mention that the publisher's blurb for the second, Surplus Goods (1924), says it "tells the life stories of four girls under the modern conditions brought about by the preponderance in numbers of women over men." Good, bad, or indifferent it might be, but I may still have to track it down.

Similarly, I know little about ROSE THURBURN, who wrote four novels 1950-1959, apart from a single review. Of The Colour of the Glass (1953), a critic said, "Sensitivity, intelligence, and the fresh revealing phrase mark this story of two fine, mature people who fall in love." Could have potential? Her other titles are The Wilderness Is Yours (1950), The Pulling Stones (1959), and Alien's Sunshine (1959).

A couple of the authors in this post are here because they were recommended by readers of this blog. First, Gina emailed me as she was reading The Visitors (1958), the second and (sadly) final novel from MARY MCMINNIES, which deals with British civil servants living in a thinly-fictionalized version of Krakow in the dark days of the Iron Curtain. Gina said the novel deserves much more attention than it has received, and she bumped it well up my TBR list. Neglected Books discussed the novel here

McMinnies' one earlier novel was The Flying Fox (1956), set among a group of British officials and their families in the Malay Peninsula.

And Ann, another reader of this blog, left a comment a while back recommending the single novel published by Welsh writer GRACE ROBERTS. Lowri (1956) is set in a village in Wales in the late 19th century and I'm now quite intrigued by it. It was also discussed by Ann on her blog here.

I readily admit that my fascination with GWENLLIAN MEYRICK is currently based almost entirely on purely superficial factors: 1) the covers of her books are irresistible, and 2) her unusual and melodious name. The only tidbit of factual information I have is a blurb about her fourth novel, The Disastrous Visit (1956): "Novel set among an ordinary family in London in the 1950's." But while I'm being superficial, I'll say that her other five novels have evocative titles as well—The Morning-Room (1950), Change of Air (1952), Against the Stream (1953), The Second Wife (1957), and Shed No Tear (1961). Will I be disappointed when I actually track down one or more of her books?

I suppose it's also pretty superficial to include DIANA PETRE on this list, mainly because she's the half-sister of novelist J. R. Ackerley. But I'm intrigued by her biography of her mother, Muriel Perry, who was the mistress of Ackerley's father, which—like Ackerley's My Father and Myself (1968)—is an attempt to find the truth about a mysterious parent. The fact that Petre comes from such familial drama makes me, validly or not, intrigued by her two novels, Portrait of Mellie (1952) and The Cruel Month (1955).

ANNE MARRECO published most of her eight novels under the pseudonym Alice Acland, including the title that inspired a Kirkus review that suggests it may be either absolutely wonderful or absolutely ghastly. Of A Stormy Spring (1955)—which by the way is available in the U.S. from Hathi Trust—Kirkus said:

A successor to Templeford Park is again modest in intention, but highly accomplished in its tender discernment applied to the early years of marriage between Emily Caterham and Julian Ellerdine. Emily, an expectant twenty, is easily susceptible to the dramatic charm of Julian, although there are intimations that he is a difficult young man, and after a precipitate courtship which meets with her family's disapproval, they elope. … A study in incompatibility and compromise, decorous and delicate, that indulges feminine concerns and tastes and may possibly improve them.

(I don't quite know what to make of that final line, either, but it certainly seems condescending!)

MARY CECIL wrote only three novels, but they seem promising. She got critical acclaim for her debut, In Two Minds (1959), about a young girl's nervous breakdown. 

Her second work, Something in Common (1960), is about an upper crust young woman performing with ENSA, and Growing Pains (1964) is apparently a semi-autobiographical family tale. The Spectator review of the last describes Cecil as "a writer of immense charm."

It's hard to get a full sense of the tone of MARY DUNSTAN's eleven novels, but Banners in Bavaria (1939) was praised for its "extraordinarily impressive picture of Munich on the night of the Anschluss celebrations." Jagged Skyline (1935), which was also published as Snow Against the Skyline, is apparently about mountain climbing (I wonder if she was acquainted with Elizabeth Coxhead, the only other middlebrow author I can recall who wrote a novel about climbing), but that's about the extent of my knowledge of her work. I'm going to keep Banners on my radar though, so perhaps I'll be able to tell you more about her in the future.

Finally, the last two authors in this post have a tenuous claim to being here, at best. I already mentioned DOROTHY A. HUNT in my "mistaken identity" post a while back, and I mentioned her confusing doppelganger Dorothy Alice Bonavia-Hunt in my first TBR list post. The most I have to go on regarding her books is a difficult-to-read scan of the front flap of her novel The Amazing Paradox, which reads in part:

It is three years since Dorothy A. Hunt published her last novel, "Meet Madame Mazova"; nevertheless, those who did meet Madame—even though they may not have approved—are not likely to have forgotten that unusual and fascinating character, with her sparkling wit, her changing moods, and her background of Czarist Russia.

In "The Amazing Paradix," meet her again in the further exploits of this extraordinary woman and her attractive little English secretary, Nan.

Apparently a photo of Jane Locke, though its quality
leaves something to be desired

Not a great deal to go on, but still more than I know about JANE LOCKE, in whose case my interest was piqued by the shortest possible reference to her one novel, Nothing Ever Happens (1938). The reference merely mentions that the novel focuses on office life, which for whatever reason makes me intrigued. The fact, meanwhile, that Locke also appears to have published many dozens of short stories, mostly in the Evening News, intrigues me even more. Could she turn out to be an author worth rescuing from the sands of time?

And that's it for now. Are any of these authors now on your TBR list as well?


  1. Also "A visit to Timon" a novel by Rachel Trickett.

  2. "The TBR List Grows Longer" Well, yeah.... Does anyone's list, now matter how much we read, every grow shorter? :^)) It's an amazing paradox, isn't it.

    You'd never guess, would you, that the two covers for The Visitors are for the same novel. Lovely Petra hunts mushrooms in the woods and meets up with a charming stranger; meanwhile, in Krakaw, her stylish Aunt Louisa findself herself unwillingly involved in a matter of international intrigue and danger.

    And that last one...OMG. Slimey Cedric wonders how he can get out of this, while Heartbroken Helen agonizes all over his shiny lapels. All observed by an elderly widow from another century (who might turn out to be all of 50 in the book).

    Okay I'll stop now.

  3. Yes, Tina, too, too true. Thanks to Our Scott, my own TBR list (pile?) grows ever longer and taller!
    (Big fake sigh here - like that's a bad thing!)

  4. I hate to say this but i came across the Helen Foley book and considered buying it but it was not to my personal taste.I do not always like European set stories.That is just me.I liked the cover.Be keen to see if her others are better.
    Tina again.

  5. Funny when a book "haunts" you and you see it everywhere but don't want it.Have you had this problem?SERENDIPITY in reverse.



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