How It Happened in Peach Hill by Marthe Jocelyn

Fifteen-year-old Annie and her mother, Madame Caterina, roam from town to town in order to cheat people and collect their money. Annie’s mother poses as a clairvoyant and she makes people believe that she can communicate with the dead. She has many strategies, but when the duo arrives in Peach Hill, Madame Caterina has a new idea – Annie must pretend to be an idiot. That way, the young girl can gather information about clients and make her mother’s business a success. But Annie is a clever girl who yearns to be normal, to attend school and to make friends. However, her mother doesn’t really want Annie to do all these things, as her daughter is her best weapon when it comes to her shady work. As the story evolves, the young girl dares to break out of her role and learn to tell the truth.

How It Happened in Peach Hill is an entertaining and engaging coming-of-age story; it’s the tale of a young girl who has to make painful decisions and learn what she really wants in life. Annie is a fifteen-year-old who is torn between her duty towards her mother and her desire to be herself. On the one hand, she loves her mother and helps her with her work as a spiritual advisor even though she knows it’s wrong, but on the other hand, she wants to be just like every other teenager and longs to make her own decisions. However, her mother is not really interested in Annie’s happiness. She is a selfish person who sets a bad example for her daughter; she teaches her daughter to deceive and cheat people in order to get rich. Madame Caterina completely ignores Annie’s dreams and beliefs since she sees her daughter as a source of income. When Annie begins to understand these things, she is determined to break free and become her own person. The young girl shows courage and strength and she is ready to do anything in order to be independent, even though it means to part with her mother.

Annie is a great character and that’s why I liked this book so much. I admired her and I shared the thrill with her when she stepped closer to her independence. I also liked the other characters, as they were engaging and well drawn.

Furthermore, I liked the book’s themes because they are effective and important. Although the story takes place in the 1920s, its themes are very modern and the characters’ problems and dilemmas can be found in our every day society. Many teenagers have to cope with selfish parents and it’s hard for them to break free when their parents are too controlling and think they know what’s best for their children even though it may not always be true.

Overall, I was really pleased with How It Happened in Peach Hill because it’s a wonderful story about courage, morals, dreams and decisions. It was very intriguing to catch a glimpse of a clairvoyant’s life and to see behind the curtain of this alluring world. What I also liked about this novel was the fact that there were old wives’ tales at the beginning of each chapter. They are relevant for the plot and I found them really entertaining!

Ever since I read Marthe Jocelyn’s book Folly, I wanted to read more works by this author and I am glad that I read How It Happened in Peach Hill since it was just as wonderful. I am looking forward to the author’s future books!

I would like to thank Casey Lloyd from Random House for sending me a copy of this engaging book!

Andreea

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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

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

A Kid for Two Farthings by Wolf Mankowitz

Six-year-old Joe is a curious little boy who asks many questions and who has a vivid imagination. Joe is living with his mother in 1950s East End London, where he is always surrounded by hard-working people. From his neighbour Mr. Kandinsky and the wrestler Shmule to the shop owner Mrs. Abramowitz, little Joe is accompanied by people who are very fond of him and who take good care of him.

As all of Joe’s acquaintances seem to need a little bit of luck in their lives, Joe brings home a unicorn (which is actually a goat) since he hopes that his ‘unicorn’ will fulfil his friends some wishes. Mr. Kandinsky needs a steam press for his shop and Shmule needs to buy a ring for his beloved Sonia. Joe and his mother also have a wish – to join Joe’s father in Africa. Will Joe’s ‘unicorn’ really be able to fulfil all these wishes?

A Kid for Two Farthings is a lovely book full of wonderful people who work very hard and who have humble wishes. Although they are very busy, Joe’s neighbours still make time for little Joe because the boy doesn’t really have anyone to talk to, since his father is away and his mother is working. Joe really likes to be surrounded by his neighbours, because he can ask them many questions and thus, he gets the attention he needs. In return, Joe wants to do everything in order to see his friends happy. That’s why he brings home a ‘unicorn’ – the little boy hopes that his new ‘pet’ will grant all of their wishes.

I really liked this touching book and I liked reading about little Joe. The little boy is very curious and has a great imagination. He believes in the magic of his ‘unicorn’ and he wants to help his friends and see them happy. Joe is very playful and inventive; he always wants to know everything and that’s why I liked him so much. I also liked the other characters, as they are all very friendly, humble and warm, despite the fact that their lives are hard. Mr. Kandinsky is a very great person and he is like a grandfather to Joe. When the little boy brings home his ‘unicorn’, Mr. Kandinsky doesn’t tell Joe the truth, because he sees how happy Joe is. Therefore, he lets Joe believe that his goat is a unicorn, which can grant wishes and make people happy. Mr. Kandinsky encourages Joe’s imagination and creativity and that’s why I liked him so much!

Overall, I must say that A Kid for Two Farthings was a great book, which I enjoyed very much. It’s a quick read and I recommend this adorable little book to everyone who likes to read books set in the past and to everyone who likes to read a heart-warming and hopeful story.

Andreea

Love’s Shadow by Ada Leverson

On the surface, Edith and Bruce Ottley seem like the perfect Edwardian couple – respectable, presentable and well mannered. However, in reality, Edith begins to feel a little bored with her marriage since Bruce is a man with many eccentricities and absurdities. Edith’s husband seems to complain about everything and everyone and he thinks too well of himself. Luckily, Edith’s friend Hyacinth Verney is there to bring a little excitement into Edith’s dull life. Hyacinth is a beautiful and glamorous young woman whom everyone adores and admires. She appears to have the perfect life, except that the young woman is madly in love with someone who doesn’t show any interest in her. Hyacinth cannot really understand why the man of her dreams doesn’t seem to admire her like everyone else, thus she tries to do everything in order to win his attention. After many misunderstandings, heartaches and jealousies, Hyacinth and her beloved are finally united.

Love’s Shadow is a classic comedy of manners and it deals with the affairs of the heart and their consequences. Ada Leverson masterfully explores the different facets of love – the love between friends, unrequited love and being in love. Furthermore, her novel draws a lucid portrait of married life, while revealing all its oddities, enigmas and obscurities.

Love’s Shadow is packed with charm, wit, hilarious dialogue, eccentric characters and superb writing. Since the novel is set in the past and in England, it was the perfect book for me. I just loved everything about this book and I had to laugh many times while reading it. There are just so many witty remarks and funny characters in Ada Leverson’s novel that you can’t help but adore it! I liked all the characters except for Bruce Ottley since he is such a peculiar and unlikeable man! (However, I think that it was the author’s purpose to portray him that way). Bruce is so obnoxious and so full of himself – he never seems content and he always finds fault with everything and everyone. I can fully understand why Edith is bored with him, since Bruce is so annoying with his attitude and outrageous behaviour. He thinks of himself as a ‘man of the world’ when in reality, he is lazy, odd and ignorant. Furthermore, he treats his wife as if she were an object and a servant. Bruce thinks that Edith is not clever, but the truth is that she is more intelligent than he could ever be. However, Edith has to keep things to herself, because wives at that time couldn’t take the liberty of opposing their husbands. But she still gets her own way quite often, because she is clever enough to let Bruce believe that he’s in charge, when in reality, Edith has the upper hand when it comes to their marriage.

Love’s Shadow was a pure delight and an enjoyable read and I recommend it to everyone out there who likes to read books set in the past and to everyone who likes to read about gender roles.

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

The 1930s Mini – Challenge

When I heard about Nymeth’s 1930s Mini – Challenge, I didn’t know if I could take part, since I didn’t have any books to read for this reading challenge. However, I really wanted to join, since I love books that are set between the wars. I don’t really know when it all started; I just know that I love to read about this specific period, especially when these books are set in England. There’s just something so special about the 1930s (and about Interwar Literature in general) and I find it fascinating to learn more about these years. I have already read a couple of books that are set between the wars and I must say that I really loved them all. High Rising by Angela Thirkell, Miss Buncle’s Book by D.E. Stevenson and The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim are just a few of them and they are such wonderful, entertaining and lovely books!

That’s why I wanted to read more interwar books and luckily, I finally can, because I received some great books yesterday. Peter Miller from Bloomsbury Publishing has kindly sent me some books that are set between the 1920s and 1950s and I can’t wait to read them all! I wasn’t really expecting to receive so many books and I am really grateful for that! Unfortunately, only one of these books is actually set in the 1930s, thus I can only read that one for Nymeth’s reading challenge. However, I will enjoy reading them all, as they are set in the early 20th century and I love every book that is set in the past. And I think I will also be able to read a Persephone book for this challenge as well, namely, Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day by Winifred Watson.

But now let’s have a look at the Bloomsbury books:

 

Mrs. Tim of the Regiment by D.E. Stevenson (the author of Miss Buncle’s Book)

Love’s Shadow by Ada Leverson

A Kid for Two Farthings by Wolf Mankowitz

Henrietta’s War by Joyce Dennys

Miss Hargreaves by Frank Baker

The Brontes Went to Woolworths by Rachel Ferguson (which I actually read but not reviewed yet)

Daphne by Justine Picardie (a literary mystery about Daphne du Maurier and the Bronte siblings – I have wanted to read this one since I discovered it last year)

So what about you? Have you read any of these books? (I know Nymeth has)! Also, are you going to join? If you want to learn more about this reading challenge, please click here.
 

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