07 December 2009

bloomsbury books

It was Darlene who first told me about The Bloomsbury Group, a series of 'lost classics' from the early 20th century being reprinted by Bloomsbury Publishing.

I started with Henrietta's War by Joyce Dennys:

Henrietta, a doctor's wife in Devonshire, documents the mundanities and absurdities of life on the Homefront in letters to her childhood friend Robert. While similar in tone to Diary of a Provincial Lady, it was neither as funny nor as engaging, and even the quirky illustrations (by the author herself) couldn't quite redeem it.

More successful was Mrs Tim of the Regiment by D.E. Stevenson, author of Miss Buncle's Book:

Hester Christie (Mrs Tim) starts a diary in which she records her daily doings with all the wit and verve of my favorite Provincial Lady. While I think the book rather lost its way toward the end--the entire second half is taken up by diary entries for a single holiday in June--I still thoroughly enjoyed it.

And my faith in the series was further restored by Miss Hargreaves:

Norman and Henry invent a character, Miss Hargreaves, only to have her appear on their doorstep exactly as they imagined her. Things quickly spin out of control, as Miss Hargreaves gets Norman into one sticky situation after another, and what started as a light farce takes on a more sinister edge. A completely surreal, thoroughly engaging romp right to the end.

A Kid for Two Farthings by Wolf Mankowitz was a much quieter book:

Six-year-old Joe, growing up in London's Jewish community in the 50s, buys a unicorn (a little white goat) in the Whitechapel market, hoping one day the unicorn's stubby horn will grant the humble wishes of his friends and family. This beautifully observed slice of life was warm and tender without being overly sentimental. Simply perfect.

Four down, two to go!


  1. My favourite was A kid for two farthings.

  2. Oh yes, A Kid for Two Farthings - that takes me right back to my childhood!

  3. I thought completely the opposite as Henrietta is a long time favourite and I was underwhelmed by Mrs Tim! They make a pretty set, don't they?

  4. Who needs to read them when they can just gaze upon the luscious covers?? Really fun design.

  5. Such lovely covers! Like callmemadam, I have to disagree with you about Henrietta's War, which, along with the follow up (Henrietta See It Through - I think - it's not to hand at the moment) is poignant and funny and eminently re-readable. But thank you, Kristina - I haven't read any of the others, and intend to do so now!

    I can't recommend the Mapp and Lucia books by EF Benson enough at the moment - such vividly drawn characters living detailed lives, steeped in venom and gossip, in small villages. Priceless stuff!

  6. What a great overview! I've loved all of them so far, though not to the same degree. Obviously Miss Hargreaves is far and away my favourite, but I'm also very much enjoying Mrs. Tim, loved Henrietta, thought Love's Shadow was fantastic. It's all sounding very enthused here... actually my least favourite so far is The Brontes Went To Woolworths, and I actually really like that too! I haven't read A Kid for Two Farthings yet.

  7. I can see that I'm going to have to order a copy of A Kid for Two Farthings, it does indeed sound delightful. Terrific post Kristina! D x

  8. Definitely going to be on the look out for a unicorn in Whitechapel this week!

  9. I do love the covers . . . and the fact that old books are being revived. Where do you find these?