Today, as I am feeling a bit under the weather, I took an easy time and read my fave bloggers’ entries. Blooey’s article on Judging Books by Covers has reminded me about the eye-catching covers of the books from the Bloomsbury Group reviewed by Frances of Nonsuch Book. For a vintage and art deco fan like me, these are just delectable eye candy that fortunately don’t melt either in the mouth or in the hands.
As written in the Bloomsbury website, this series [Bloomsbury Group] celebrates lost classics written by both men and women from the early twentieth century, books recommended by readers, for readers. Literary bloggers, authors, friends, and colleagues have shared their suggestions of cherished books worthy of revival.
THE BOOKS IN THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP
- Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris by Paul Gallico
Mrs Harris is a salt-of-the-earth London charlady who cheerfully cleans the houses of the rich. One day, when tidying Lady Dant’s wardrobe, she comes across the most beautiful thing she has ever seen in her life – a Dior dress. In all the years of her drab and humble existence, she’s never seen anything as magical as the dress before her and she’s never wanted anything as much before. Determined to make her dream come true, Mrs Harris scrimps, saves and slaves away until one day, after three long, uncomplaining years, she finally has enough money to go to Paris.
When she arrives at the House of Dior, Mrs Harris has little idea of how her life is about to be turned upside down and how many other lives she will transform forever. Always kind, always cheery and always winsome, the indomitable Mrs Harris takes Paris by storm and learns one of life’s greatest lessons along the way.
This treasure from the 1950s introduces the irrepressible Mrs Harris, part charlady, part fairy-godmother, whose adventures take her from her humble London roots to the heights of glamour.
- Henrietta’s War by Joyce Dennys
Spirited Henrietta wishes she was the kind of doctor’s wife who knew exactly how to deal with the daily upheavals of war. But then, everyone in her close-knit Devonshire village seems to find different ways to cope: there’s the indomitable Lady B, who writes to Hitler every night to tell him precisely what she thinks of him; the terrifyingly efficient Mrs Savernack, who relishes the opportunity to sit on umpteen committees and boss everyone around; flighty, flirtatious Faith who is utterly preoccupied with the latest hats and flashing her shapely legs; and then there’s Charles, Henrietta’s hard-working husband who manages to sleep through a bomb landing in their neighbour’s garden.
With life turned upside down under the shadow of war, Henrietta chronicles the dramas, squabbles and loyal friendships that unfold in her affectionate letters to her ‘dear childhood friend’ Robert. Warm, witty and perfectly observed, Henrietta’s War brings to life a sparkling community of determined troupers who pull together to fight the good fight with patriotic fervour and good humour.
- Henrietta Sees It Through by Joyce Dennys
The war is now in its third year and although nothing can dent the unwavering patriotism of Henrietta and her friends, everyone in the Devonshire village has their anxious moments. Henrietta takes up weeding and plays the triangle in the local orchestra to take her mind off things; the indomitable Lady B, now in her late seventies, partakes in endless fund-raising events to distract herself from thoughts of life without elastic; and Faith, the village flirt, finds herself amongst the charming company of the American GIs. With the war nearing its end, hope seems to lie just around the corner and as this spirited community muddle through, Lady B vows to make their friendships outlast the hardship that brought them together.
- Let’s Kill Uncle by Rohan O’Grady
When recently-orphaned Barnaby Gaunt is sent to stay with his uncle on a beautiful remote island off the coast of Canada, he is all set to have the perfect summer holiday. Except for one small problem: his uncle is trying to kill him.
Heir to a ten-million-dollar fortune, Barnaby tries to tell everyone and anyone that his uncle is after his inheritance, but no one will believe him. That is, until he tells the only other child on the island, Christie, who concludes that there is only one way to stop his demonic uncle: Barnaby will just have to kill him first. With the unexpected help of One-Ear, the aged cougar who has tormented the island for years, Christie and Barnaby hatch a fool-proof plan.
Playful, dark and witty, Let’s Kill Uncle is a surprising tale of two ordinary children who conspire to execute an extraordinary murder – and get away with it.
- A Kid for Two Farthings by Wolf Mankowitz
Six year-old Joe knows a unicorn when he sees one. His downstairs neighbour Mr Kandinsky has told him all about these mythical creatures, and there isn’t anything in the world that this wise tailor doesn’t know. So when Joe sees a little white goat amidst the singing birds, salted herrings and hokey-pokey ices of a Whitechapel market he has to have him. He knows it’s just a matter of time before the tiny bump on the unicorn’s head becomes the magic horn to grant his every wish.
For in the embattled working-class community of 1950s East End London, there are plenty of people in need of good fortune. The only thing Mr Kandinsky wants is a steam press for his shop; his assistant Shmule, a wrestler, just needs to buy a ring for his girl; and all Joe and his mother wish for, more than anything, is to join his father in Africa. But maybe, just maybe, Joe’s unicorn can sprinkle enough luck on all his friends for their humble dreams to come true.
- Miss Hargreaves by Frank Baker
When, on the spur of a moment, Norman Huntley and his friend Henry invent an eighty-three year-old woman called Miss Hargreaves, they are inspired to post a letter to their new fictional friend. It is only meant to be a silly, harmless game – until Miss Hargreaves arrives on their doorstep, complete with her cockatoo, her harp and – last but not least – her bath. She is, to Norman’s utter disbelief, exactly as he had imagined her: enchanting, eccentric and endlessly astounding. He hadn’t imagined, however, how much havoc an imaginary octogenarian could wreak in his sleepy Buckinghamshire home town, Cornford.
Norman has some explaining to do, but how will he begin to explain to his friends, family and girlfriend where Miss Hargreaves came from when he hasn’t the faintest clue himself? Will his once-ordinary, once-peaceful life ever be the same again? And, what’s more, does he want it to?
- Love’s Shadow by Ada Leverson
Edith and Bruce Ottley live in a very new, very small, very white flat in Knightsbridge. On the surface they are like every other respectable couple in Edwardian London and that is precisely why Edith is beginning to feel a little bored. Excitement comes in the form of the dazzling and glamorous Hyacinth Verney, who doesn’t understand why Edith is married to one of the greatest bores in society. But then, Hyacinth doesn’t really understand any of the courtships, jealousies and love affairs of their coterie: why the dashing Cecil Reeve insists on being so elusive, why her loyal friend Anne is so stubbornly content with being a spinster, and why she just can’t seem to take her mind off love…
- Mrs. Tim of the Regiment by D.E. Stevenson
Vivacious, young Hester Christie tries to run her home like clockwork, as would befit the wife of British Army officer, Tim Christie. However hard Mrs Tim strives for seamless living amidst the other army wives, she is always moving flat-out to remember groceries, rule lively children, side-step village gossip and placate her husband with bacon, eggs, toast and marmalade. Left alone for months at a time whilst her husband is with his regiment, Mrs Tim resolves to keep a diary of events large and small in her family life. Once pen is set to paper no affairs of the head or heart are overlooked.
When a move to a new regiment in Scotland uproots the Christie family, Mrs Tim is hurled into a whole new drama of dilemmas; from settling in with a new set whilst her husband is away, to disentangling a dear friend from an unsuitable match. Against the wild landscape of surging rivers, sheer rocks and rolling mists, who should stride into Mrs Tim’s life one day but the dashing Major Morley, hellbent on pursuit of our charming heroine. And Hester will soon find that life holds unexpected crossroads…
- The Brontes Went To Woolworths by Rachel Ferguson
As growing up in pre-war London looms large in the lives of the Carne sisters, Deirdre, Katrine and young Sheil still share an insatiable appetite for the fantastic. Eldest sister Deirdre is a journalist, Katrine a fledgling actress and young Sheil is still with her governess; together they live a life unchecked by their mother in their bohemian town house. Irrepressibly imaginative, the sisters cannot resist making up stories as they have done since childhood; from their talking nursery toys, Ironface the Doll and Dion Saffyn the pierrot, to their fulsomely-imagined friendship with real high-court Judge Toddington who, since Mrs Carne did jury duty, they affectionately called Toddy.
However, when Deirdre meets Toddy’s real-life wife at a charity bazaar, the sisters are forced to confront the subject of their imaginings. Will the sisters cast off the fantasies of childhood forever? Will Toddy and his wife, Lady Mildred, accept these charmingly eccentric girls? And when fancy and reality collide, who can tell whether Ironface can really talk, whether Judge Toddington truly wears lavender silk pyjamas or whether the Brontës did indeed go to Woolworths?
- Mrs. Ames by E.F. Benson
Reigning over a social merry-go-round of dinners and parties, Mrs. Ames is the undisputed queen bee of Riseborough. That is, until vivacious new villager Mrs. Evans catches the eye of both her son and her husband. Not content with captivating the men in her life, ‘that wonderful creature’ Mrs Evans becomes not just rival to Mrs Ames’ marriage, but rival to her village throne.
When the whole of Riseborough is invited to Mrs Evans’ masked costume party, action must be taken. As the date looms, the irrepressible Mrs Ames resolves to seize the chance to win back her position, and thus, her man.
For the covers alone, these babies are definitely worth a space in any bibliophile’s bookcase. And should someone be very generous and give me one (or a couple or all of these), I would definitely be cured. ^_^
All images courtesy of Bloomsbury Publishing. All rights reserved.
Image for the Bloomsbury Group edited in Adobe Photoshop with art deco brushes downloaded from various internet sources.
Artwork © Pachuvachuva, 2010.