Little G by E.M. Channon ~ 1936. This edition: Greyladies Press, 2012. Softcover. ISBN: 978-1-907503-21-4. 226 pages.
My rating: 8/10
Still playing catch-up with those January-read books. (Not to mention the ones I’ve got stacked up here from February.) Maybe I should try a bit harder to condense my reader’s responses?
Little G, with its rather mysterious title, was, as I’ve mentioned in an earlier round-up post, a whole lot of fun.
It’s a decidedly charming summer-set fluff piece about a misogynistic (and youngish – this is important) Cambridge mathematics don who is sent off to the country by his doctor, with orders to eschew overtaxing his brain, and to get himself into some habits of healthful exercise.
“And you really want to banish me to this beastly village, Cardew?” he inquired, with pathos.
“You can make your own choice, my man. Six months in Challingley, leading the sort of reasonable life that I’ve suggested, or a real genuine breakdown, with a real genuine rest-cure in a nursing home to follow.”
“Good Lord!” said the Mathematician, in blank horror, with a swift vision of himself quite helpless, at the mercy of innumerable designing young hussies in becoming uniforms.
“I can tell you,” said the Doctor, “that I’d be glad enough to change places with you. I’ve spent more than one holiday in Challingley, and always been sorry to come away. Plenty of people would envy you your luck.”
“Rotten luck,” said the Mathematician, uncomforted.
The Doctor, looking round for inspiration, found it suddenly on his companion’s knee.
“You can keep a cat of your own there.”
The Mathematician did not like cats. He adored them.
His gloomy face relaxed a very little.
“Now you’re talking!” he said.
“A dozen cats, if you like,” said the Doctor, encouraged.
“I’m a monocattist,” said the Mathematician.
He stood up suddenly, putting the black kitten down, but with all possible consideration for its feline feelings.
“It’s no use trying to get round me like that, Cardew,” he said. “I‘m not going. ”
Three days later – considerably alarmed by the recurrence of the unpleasant symptoms which had induced him to call in the Doctor – he went.
So there John Furnival is, domestically settled into a picturesque thatched-roof cottage, cared for by a blithely cheerful cook-housekeeper who rather sets his teeth on edge by her unremitting good nature, and her welcoming in of his numerous neighbours making their polite social calls.
Despite his crankiness, Furnival is absorbed into the community and finds himself not only going out to tea but hosting others in his turn, playing tennis, going for long country walks, and, yes, adopting a cat.
And to his horror (for he carefully inquired as to the presence of predatory females before agreeing to relocate to the village), he discovers that one of his neighbours is a very attractive young widow, one who is doubtless on the lookout for an unattached male such as himself as her next potential victim!
So focussed is Furnival on this (wholly unfounded) threat to his bachelor freedom, that he fails to realize that the true danger to his single state is approaching from a very different direction…
A cheerful, effortless read; witty throughout and wickedly funny in parts. I enjoyed it immensely.
Ethel Mary Channon wrote quite a number of books in her time (she died in 1951), most of them being “school stories” targetting the girls’ market, as well as mysteries and a number of adult novels of varying degrees of seriousness.
Little G is definitely on the “light” side; it is also said to be one of Channon’s best works, which might be seen as a warning off of sorts for her others, but I’d happily sample her “lesser” novels merely on the strength of this likeable concoction.
Long out of print, Little G was reprinted by Greyladies Press in 2012, but that run appears to be sold out as well, and the book is currently rather elusive in the second-hand lists. Perhaps all of its readers are hanging onto their copies for pleasant revisiting? I know I am.