Margery Sharp Day 2016 – how could I have missed this? I knew it was happening, but I forgot to do anything about it. I console myself by reading the appreciations of the others, in particular those new to the joys of this clever, clever writer.
Here’s a link to Margery Sharp appreciator and special day organizer Beyond Eden Rock’s post. This year Jane happily chose one of my very favourites, The Innocents, as her own book. A roundup is promised; I look forward to reading everyone’s thoughts.
Happy 111th Birthday, Margery Sharp! May the re-publishers please get going on bringing you back into print. Someone? Persephone? Grey Ladies? Virago? The early works are quite simply stellar, though I admit there are some minor bobbles later on.
And here is my own reviewlet of The Innocents which I wrote back in 2013:
This edition: Little, Brown & Co., 1972. Hardcover. 183 pages.
My rating: 11/10. I think this may well be my very favourite Margery Sharp, and, as you all may have guessed by now, I am seriously enthusiastic about this author to start with.
This was my second time reading The Innocents; I will be rationing myself to revisiting it, oh, maybe once a year or so, because I don’t want to wear out its already special status in my favourites list. For all of that enthusiasm, this is a very quiet book, one of those minor tales concerning a few people only, with nothing terribly exciting going on within it. But it is a compelling read, and I was completely on the side of the angels right from the get go, though fully cognizant of their failings.
In brief, then.
A middle-aged spinster living in a quiet English village is visited by a younger friend who has married very well indeed, and who is now living in America. It is immediately pre-WW II, and the married couple are hoping to squeeze in a Continental holiday before things cut loose. They are also travelling with their small child, and the unstated purpose of the visit-to-an-old-friend soon becomes clear: they are hoping that they can leave the child in the peace of the country while they continue on their tour.
All is arranged, and spinster and child settle in to a peaceful routine, which quietly turns into a longer-term arrangement as war intervenes and the parents return to America without stopping to collect their child.
Here’s the hook. The young child is very obviously mentally retarded, and though the father suspects this, the beautiful and vivacious mother refuses to even consider that her offspring may be in any way “sub normal”. The child and her caregiver form a deep and complex bond in the ensuing years before the now-widowed mother returns to collect her daughter and return with her to America, to launch into society, as it were, as a charming sidekick to her fashionable mother.
The reality is much different than the dream, and the subsequent events are absolutely heart-rending. The author lets us all suffer along with the brutally dazed child until bringing things to a rather shocking conclusion, which she has already told us about on the very first page.
Margery Sharp is at her caustic best in this late novel. Loved it. A longer review shall one day follow, full of excerpts and much more detail.
In lieu of a new review, here are some more of my past posts from the archives. May I say “highly recommended”?
And two of the juveniles, for good measure: