Monday, 3 September 2012

Gossip From Thrush Green - Miss Read



The first four or five days I was at home, I had a headache.  It's related to a tooth problem, which hopefully will get sorted out, and I've become a cheerleader for various painkillers and antibiotics this week - but, more to the point, I needed something to read.  I couldn't cope with anything stylistically sophisticated or experimental, or even anything which could be considered demanding in any sense of the word.  What could I choose?  Well, I'd never read anything by Miss Read, and she seemed to fit the bill.  I have three on my shelf, picked up cheaply somewhere, and so I chose one from the middle of her writing - Gossip from Thrush Green (1981).

Although I had never previously read a word by Miss Read, it was exactly what I expected.  Thoroughly enjoyable, and utterly forgettable.  It's a little village where everyone knows each other, and cares for each other - the only differences being that some show this care, and some hide it.  Everyone gossips, especially the men, and a mischievous cat is about as traumatic as a burnt down vicarage (incidentally, not the most restful scenario to read whilst sitting in a vicarage!)

It's been less than a week, and already all the characters and events are fading from my mind... I think the characters recur throughout the series of Thrush Green novels, so other readers might already be fond of blunt Ella, dotty Dotty, kind vicar's wife Dimity etc.  I liked them all, but - differently though they were described - all of them spoke in the same warm, sensible way.  Miss Read (or Dora Saint, as she was called) writes in a very workmanlike way, getting the job done - which is perfectly good enough, because she clearly isn't trying to be experimental.  With my headache, I was grateful.  Although set around 1981, when it was published, this was only clear because they talked about decimalisation.  Apart from that, it could easily have been 1950 or 1930 or even earlier.  It's all bathed in nostalgia.  Villages still have these sorts of friendships and acquaintances - everyone is interested in each other - but they're not quite so cut off from the rest of the world.

But how could I not warm to a novelist who takes it for granted that we know who the Provincial Lady is?
"'When in doubt, don't', is my motto," said Ella forthrightly.  "And as for love, well, you know what the Provincial Lady maintained.  She reckoned that a sound bank balance and good teeth far outweighed it in value."
And how could I not nod my head to this?
"A quarter past three," she exclaimed, catching sight of the bedside clock. "What a time to be drinking tea!""Anytime," Harold told her, "is time to be drinking tea."
All in all, this was the perfect book for me to read this week, but I think I'll be keeping Miss Read to days when I can't cope with anything else.  I know she has her besotted fans - Our Vicar's Wife has read them all several times, I believe - but when I'm after comfort reading I'd rather run back to the 1920s.

15 comments:

  1. So sorry to hear about the tooth! I can definitely empathize, having "been there and done that" recently. I'm one of those folks who loves Miss Read and find her good comfort reading. I think I've read all of them, but I like the Fairacre Chronicles slightly better than the Thrush Green series. (But, not all of them are as modern as 1981 -- some were written in the 50's and then going forward.)

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    1. Thanks, Susan, tooth has stopped causing constant pain, but something is obviously still wrong, so... more dentist adventures.

      I will definitely not dismiss Miss Read - she'll stay on the reserve list for stressful times!

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  2. This one is definitely for me!

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    1. She wrote so many, I hope you manage to track down some!

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  3. I used to devour her books in the 1960's and kept up with her writing until the early 1990's but have not read any since. Definitely comfort reading, hope that tooth problem gets sorted quickly.

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    1. Thanks :) me too! I don't know when she stopped writing - she died earlier in the year, which surprised me as I thought she'd died years ago.

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  4. I am one of those who is 'besotted!' And I find the characters completely memorable. Quite often one of them will pop into my head.
    I also meant to leave a comment on the anniversary post, but didn't get to it. I LOVE the photo of the family. Oh, just wonderful. So glad you posted it.

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    1. I do love that photo! I had it made into a canvas print for Dad's Christmas present.

      Maybe it was the headache which made the characters blur for me?

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  5. I read many Miss Read books when my children were younger - about 30 years ago - & loved them. I haven't read any for ages, but have kept them all as I can foresee a time when they will be just what I want to read.

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    1. They definitely fit a purpose - this one was so *nice*.

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  6. Hello, I just found and read your blog. I have all of Miss Read's books and re-read them when comfort from life's stress's is needed.. It's like vising old friends. So much so that even though I live in Massachusetts I get the "Witney Gazette" delivered to my computer every morning. Thanks, I enjoy your writing.

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  7. The early books are the best - I think she began writing in the 1950s and are full of interesting comments on educational policies of the time and the children in the school where she teaches. As they move more into modern times she's obviously coasting on a winning formula and I find the 1980s ones nice but pretty lazy.

    But for the situation you're describing they're pretty much perfect. I'm not sure if you're into historical romances as a male in your twenties (have I got that right?) but for me Georgette Heyer fills the same sort of situation - the lightest of light fiction but extremely well researched, so you don't feel as though you've insulted your intelligence afterwards.

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    1. I've been enjoying your comments - thanks for finding me! And you're quite right that I'm a male in my 20s (although only just - I'll soon be a male in my 30s). And I don't really get on with historical fiction at all, romantic or otherwise, I'm afraid - never quite pinpointed why.

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