Sunday, January 25, 2015

It's Margery Sharp Day!

A lovely idea from Jane @ Fleur in her World - ' the plan is for as many people as possible to read one of Margery’s books and post about it on her birthday'. 
For me it has been an introduction to an author I hadn't read before. I'm sure her books would have been around years a go when I was young but not the sort of thing I would have been interested in then. I chose to read The Sun in Scorpio which was published in 1965, one of her later works and from these opening lines I knew I was going to love it.

'Everything sparkled.
Below the low stone wall, beyond the rocks, sun-pennies danced on the blue Mediterranean; so dazzlingly, they could be looked at only between dropped lashes. (In 1913, the pre-sunglass era, light was permitted to assault the naked eye.) opposite, across the road called Victoria Avenue, great bolts of sunlight struck at the white stone buildings and richocheted off the windows. A puff of dust was a puff of gold-dust, an orange spilled from a basket like a windfall from the Hesperides.
Everything sparkled, from the sun-pennies on the sea to the buckles on a cab horse's harness, from the buttons on a child's reefer jacket to the heavy gold pendant at a girl's ear. Everything sparkled or shone, even the stiff black hoods of the old women; serge or alpaca, worn smooth by use, under that sun a glossy blackbird-plumage.'
The Pennon family are part of the British community living on Next-Door-Island: next door to Malta, that is. It is here their three children, Muriel, Cathy and Alan spend their early childhood and it is Cathy who is the centre of this story. A true child of the sun she thrives in the heat.

But war is looming and Mr Pennon decides they must 'go home' and there is much anticipation among the children who see this far away unknown 'home' as...

"a Kate Greenaway paradise of primroses, beehives and pet rabbits; of paddling in brooks, nutting in woods, and dancing round the maypole."

The reality of a drab London suburb was somewhat different..

" Everything dripped.
The skies dripped, the lampposts dripped, the pillar boxes dripped and the handles of the errand-boys' bicycles dripped.

Everything was cold.
The streets were cold, it was cold on the trams and cold in the shops. A puff of breath showed on the cold air like a puff of smoke without a fire..."

Poor Cathy! While Muriel and Alan adapt to their new life she is the flower that without the sun fails to flourish and grow. Ten years on , plain and ungainly, she is a shadow of her former self.

After the death of her parents she goes to live with Muriel, the domestic queen, and her husband; a situation that neither of them likes and eventually takes a position in the country as governess and 'attendant sprite' to the upper class Lady Jean and her M.P. husband.

Cathy is rather a frustrating character who drifts along accepting what life brings but doing little to make what she wants happen. I liked the ending which holds the promise that something happier (and sunnier) is coming her way.

The story spans more than three decades that included two world wars, a depression and radical social change - it is all there in the background and between the lines but the focus is on ordinary people. Margery Sharp writes with the true British humour that I love, capturing the attitudes and eccentricities of her characters with the perception that comes from close observation. At times she reminded me of Nancy Mitford but with a gentler wit.

I loved it! Thanks Jane for introducing me to another wonderful author and one I look forward to reading more of very soon.


  1. Wow, that sounds like a great book. I was going to participate but my library only had The Rescuers so I decided to pass. I'll have to keep a lookout for her books though when I'm used book shopping. I just love her writing.

    1. I had no hope of finding anything here but the Open Library has many of her titles so I downloaded from there. Not keen on reading on the computer but had no choice and at less than 300p wasn't too bothersome. I will probably read more of MS that way.

  2. This sounds wonderful, and I love the quotes that you've chosen. The long time frame isn't typical Margery Sharp, maybe because it has more drawn from life than her other books, but the style certainly is. I'm so glad that you enjoyed the book, and thank you so much for joining in the celebration of Margery's birthday.

    1. I have since read a couple of reviews that said it wasn't as good as her earlier work but not having read anything else I can't compare. I loved it !

  3. I haven't yet read one of these posts about a Margery Sharp book that I didn't want to read. Thanks to Jane for introducing me to this wonderful author as well.

    1. I'm amazed that other authors of her time are being republished while she is overlooked. I think she is equally as good as some of the others I've read.

  4. Like Lory, every review I read I think I MUST read that book. This really does sound delightful, and the contrasting descriptions of the glittering sunlight on the sea at a Mediterranean island and the dull, constant dripping of rain in London are really wonderful.