Saturday, August 17, 2013

Westwood by Stella Gibbons

My Classics Spin *2 book which I read in the required time but never got around to writing a post for.

Westwood is set in the Highgate - Hampstead Heath area of London during WWII ....
" The ruins of the small shapely houses in the older parts of the city were yellow, like the sunlit houses of Genoa; all shades of yellow; deep, and pale, or glowing with a strange transparency in the light. The fire-fighting people had made deep pools with walls around them in many of the streets, and here, in the heart of London, ducks came to live on these lakes that reflected the tall yellow ruins and the blue sky. Pink willow-herb grew over the white uneven ground where house had stood, and there were acres of ground covered with deserted, shattered houses whose windows were filled with torn black paper."
Margaret Steggles is 23, a schoolteacher who has just come to London with her parents to take up a new position. A plain, bookish girl who is constantly told by her mother that she is ' not the type who attracts men' she yearns for something more than her unsatisfying job and unhappy home life. Under the sensible exterior is a young woman with unrealistic expectations of a life filled with Romance, Art and Beauty. 
" I've got such frighteningly strong feelings - you don't know." I think you imagine a lot of it,' said Hilda. 
Hilda is Margaret's friend, pretty, happy and down-to-earth who loves nothing more than to keep her service boys 'ever so cheery'.

When Margaret finds a ration book on Hampstead Heath she finds herself propelled into the lives of Gerald Challis, an aging playwright who Margaret has a desperate crush on, and his artistic family. It is everything she has ever dreamed of and she will do anything to stay a part of it. Gerald is a pompous, opinionated ass who meets his comeuppance when he falls for pretty Hilda.

I have conflicting thoughts about Westwood.
Stella Gibbons writes beautiful and atmospheric prose which is something I love but there was too much of it.
There is humour, particularly when Hilda and Gerald are on the scene but I found Margaret irritating and dull. 
Some of the storylines held my interest, others dragged on too long and became boring.

If the book had disappeared when I was halfway through reading it I doubt I would have cared very much.

Classics Club


  1. I liked the Stella Gibbons book I read a while back - The Rich House - a little more than you liked this, but I agree with you on the nature of her prose and the holding power of the story.

  2. Your review got me all excited to begin with - I lived in Highgate briefly in 1991 and I love to read books set there still...but by the time I got to the end of your review I wasn't so sure I wanted a book on my TBR pile that you were so so-so about.