Miss Hargreaves by Frank Baker (1939)

Norman Huntley and his friend Henry have been making up stories since they were young and they have pretended to know people who don’t even exist. But when they invent an eighty-three-year-old woman called Miss Hargreaves, they are more than surprised to see their new fictional friend standing beside them one day. Miss Hargreaves is exactly as he had imagined her – she is an eccentric and extraordinary old woman who makes Norman’s life difficult. Furthermore, she brings chaos into his sleepy Buckinghamshire town. As Norman tries to tell his friends and family about Miss Hargreaves’s arrival, he encounters difficulties, since the young man doesn’t even know where the curious old lady came from. Ever since Miss Hargreaves entered Norman’s peaceful life, everything has been tumultuous and weird, and the young man must now decide if he wants the old woman to be part of his life any longer or if he wants his once-ordinary life back. But how does one get rid of such an incredible person when one does not know where she came from in the first place?

Miss Hargreaves is a hilarious book about an unusual friendship; it’s a wonderful story about creativity, the power of imagination and the its consequences. I have wanted to read this book since I discovered it last year and I am happy that I finally had the chance to do so because it was exactly as I had imagined it. I liked this unusual story and I liked Norman because he is a creative young man who, on the spur of a moment, likes to invent people or events that have never taken place. For him, it’s entertaining and amusing to make up these stories and he is very good at it and very convincing. But when Norman and his friend Henry invent Miss Hargreaves, their troubles begin. Although it was only meant as a silly joke, the young men are shocked to learn that their creation has somehow come alive. And since the old lady makes Norman’s life very complicated, he thinks about putting her off. Still, he isn’t quite sure if he really wants to get rid of her for good. On the one hand, he likes this eccentric and impossible old lady, but on the other hand, Miss Hargreaves drives Norman mad, with her oddities and strange behaviour. That’s why I really sympathized with him; I felt his frustration toward Miss Hargreaves, but I also understood why he was proud of his creation.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading about Norman and his unusual friend and I found their adventures very entertaining and funny. I liked all the characters in this book and I loved the dated language. If you like to read books set in the past and if you like imaginative tales, Miss Hargreaves will be the perfect novel for you!

Note: This review has been written for Nymeth’s 1930s Mini-Challenge.

Andreea

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Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson (1938)

Miss Pettigrew is a middle-aged spinster who has to earn her living as a governess. Her life is uneventful and dull, but everything changes when she is accidentally sent by her employment agency to work for a nightclub singer. As soon as she enters Miss LaFosse’s life, Miss Pettigrew is thrilled, overjoyed, surprised and thankful, because Miss LaFosse is such an exciting and glamorous woman. The nightclub singer leads a sophisticated and bohemian life, with her many lovers and her dashing and daring friends. Miss LaFosse’s life is full of surprises, intricacies and troubles and that’s why Miss Pettigrew is so fascinated by the beautiful singer. At first, the governess is shocked to learn about Miss LaFosse’s chaotic and disreputable lifestyle, but the more time she spends with the singer, the more she grows fond of her. And since Miss LaFosse’s life is so unexpected and eclectic, Miss Pettigrew observes everything with great enthusiasm and admiration. But when a series of misunderstandings and stirring events occurs, Miss Pettigrew intervenes and immediately becomes a lifesaver for Miss LaFoss and her friends. In return, the governess is showered with kindness, acceptance and warmth and for the first time in her life, she is treated with respect and she is given the attention she’s always craved.

Miss Pettigrew’s story is remarkable and incredible in every way and it’s a lovely version of Cinderella. The likeable heroine never fails to surprise you, with her newly acquired repartee, her enthusiasm, her wit and her newly found self-confidence. Before she entered Miss LaFosse’s life, Miss Pettigrew never attracted anyone’s attention; she led a bleak life as a governess and nobody was interested in her. She had to live with other people and take care of their children and she never received any recognition for her work. The governess had no one to talk to and to confide in, as she had no friends. But everything changes when our heroine meets Miss LaFoss and her friends. Over a period of 24 hours, Miss Pettigrew’s life is completely altered. Suddenly, people begin to notice her, to listen to her and to ask for her advice. Miss Pettigrew finally feels appreciated and respected and she enjoys every minute of her new life. Our heroine also enjoys her new role as a lifesaver and she is happy that she can help out her new friends. Since she met Miss LaFoss, the governess has learned many things – she has learned to speak her mind, she has learned that she should never judge a book by its cover and she has learned to be daring. But the most important lesson she has learned from her day with Miss LaFosse is that it’s never too late to start living!

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is an irresistible book full of memorable and naughty characters, witty dialogue and wonderful adventures. This novel is humorous, charming and intelligent and I loved everything about it. I devoured every single page of this amazing book, but when I finished reading it, I felt sad and I began to miss all the characters. Miss Pettigrew and the other protagonists have become very dear to me and it was hard for me to part with them. When you love a book so much, you always long for more and you try to hold on to it for as long as you can. And this was the case with Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day; everything was great about it and I cannot understand why it has taken me so long to discover this engaging novel. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to read it, because it’s now one of my favorite books.

I highly recommend this charming book to everyone out there who likes to read books set in the past and to everyone who likes to read books with a positive message and a feel-good vibe!

I would like to thank Lydia from Persephone Books for sending me a copy of this enchanting book!

“Persephone Books reprints neglected classics by C20th (mostly women) writers. Each one in our collection of 83 books is intelligent, thought-provoking and beautifully written, and most are ideal presents or a good choice for reading groups.”

For more information, please visit Persephone Books.

Note: This review has been written for Nymeth’s 1930s Mini-Challenge.

Andreea

Mrs. Tim of the Regiment by D.E. Stevenson

Mrs. Tim of the Regiment is the first in a popular series of four Mrs. Tim novels and it revolves around Hester Christie, who is married to Tim, a military man. Hester leads a busy and stressful life and she has to take care of many things as a military wife. Since her husband Tim is often away, Hester has her hands full with her children, Betty and Bryan and then, there are her social and domestic responsibilities that keep our heroine busy. Thus, when she learns that her family will soon have to move to a new regiment, Hester is not really pleased, as she knows that her life will become even more stressful. From the troubles of settling in to saving a dear friend from making a disastrous marriage, Hester has to deal with many new predicaments and dramas in Scotland. And when the wealthy Major Morley enters Hester’s life one day, our heroine finds out that life is often unexpected and that it takes you by surprise.

Written in diary form, Mrs. Tim of the Regiment gives the reader an account of Hester’s daily events and it displays the hectic and stressful life of a military wife in the 1930s. Mrs. Tim of the Regiment is very charming and wonderful and I really enjoyed reading this book. Since I loved Miss Buncle’s Book, I was eager to read about Mrs. Tim and her adventures and I am so glad that D.E. Stevenson has again managed to write such an amusing novel. Some books that are written in diary form are often boring, as the various daily activities and the limited dialogue often slow the story down, but this is not the case here. The author narrates Mrs. Tim’s story in an exciting way, entertaining the reader with detailed descriptions, action and some witty dialogue.

I really liked Mrs. Tim of the Regiment because it was interesting to find out about the life of a military wife and to read about Mrs. Tim’s adventures, troubles and dilemmas. The characters in this book were amusing and delightful and it was a pleasure to read about them. Overall, I find that Mrs. Tim of the Regiment is an engaging and lovely novel written by a talented and wonderful author. I am looking forward to reading more works by D.E. Stevenson in the near future!

Note: This review has been written for Nymeth’s 1930s Mini-Challenge.

Andreea

The Brontes Went to Woolworths by Rachel Ferguson

The Carne sisters, Deirdre, Katrine and Sheil have been making up stories since they were children. Now a journalist, Deirdre and her sisters still can’t resist making up these stories, including their talking nursery doll Ironface and their imagined friendship with real Judge Toddington, whom the sisters affectionately call Toddy. The Carne sisters live in a bohemian house with their mother, who likes to join her daughters in their creative game and together, they often tell stories of people whom they never met, pretending to know them intimately. But when Deirdre meets Toddy’s real wife one day, the Carne sisters are confronted with reality. Will this event now put an end to their childhood fantasies for ever?

The Brontes Went to Woolworths was such a delightful book and I am so glad that I read it. I must admit that I had some difficulties when I first started reading it. I don’t know what it was, but I found it hard to read on at first. Maybe it was the fact that I didn’t really know what was real and what was not as I first began reading this book, but once I read a few pages, it got better and I could really enjoy this wonderful book. While reading The Brontes Went to Woolworths, I had to laugh many times, because the Carne sisters and their made-up stories were so hilarious! The characters in this book are all witty, charming and funny and you can’t help but adore them. At times, I wished I could accompany the sisters on their journeys and adventures and while I read this book, I thought about how wonderful it must be to have sisters. I only have a brother, so I don’t really know how it is to have sisters, but sometimes, I wish I had sisters, because I imagine that it must be great, especially having sisters while growing up. Sisters can share intimate details with each other, they can talk about their feelings, emotions and other personal things, because they go through the same changes and make similar experiences while growing up. And that’s why I really loved this book so much! I liked how Rachel Ferguson depicted the Carne sisters and I loved the fact that they have such a special relationship. They care deeply for one another, protect and help each other whenever there is a problem; there’s just such a deep affection between the sisters and they have such a strong bond, which I really admire.

However, the Carne sisters are not the only likeable characters. The book is full of intelligent, amusing and engaging characters. Toddy, his wife Lady Mildred and Deirdre’s mother are just a few of them and you will long to find out more about them with every page you read. While reading The Brontes Went to Woolworths, you will find yourself transported to a London full of creative people who are smart, eccentric and hilarious and you will want to read on forever as you will delight in exploring a different time and place.

Although this book is very amusing, it is sad at the same time, at least that’s what I found. As the story evolves, you will ask yourself why these girls feel the need to make up stories and pretend to know people they have actually never met. Furthermore, you will learn how imagination can help people cope with various things and how it can make such a difference in somebody’s life.

Set in London during the 1930s, The Brontes Went to Woolworths captures a time that is long forgotten and an atmosphere full of charm and warmth. The reason why I love to read books that are written in the past is because they portray a different time, where people behaved in another way and where people had a different view on life.

I loved everything about this wonderful book –its eccentric and clever characters, the dated language, the setting and especially all those funny made-up stories! I highly recommend this book to everyone out there who is interested in Interwar Literature and to everyone who likes to read books set in the past.

‘The Brontes Went to Woolworths is part of THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP, a new library of books from the early twentieth century chosen by readers for readers.’ For more information, please visit Bloomsbury Publishing

Other reviews:

Things Mean A Lot

Serendipity

Note: This review has been written for Nymeth’s 1930s Mini-Challenge.

Andreea