It’s been three years since I last wrote a Five From the Archive post, so it’s entirely possible that you’ve forgotten (or never knew) what it is. But I remembered it existed this week, and thought it was worth resurrecting!
Essentially, I delve through my review archives and pick five that fit a theme. You can see all the previous themes here, and will discover that they’re quite esoteric at times! Previous themes have included hands, death, and pairs of women. This time…
Five… Eponymous Novels
In short:We all knew this would turn up, so let’s get it out of the way. Norman invents an eccentric old lady to get out of a fix, and then invites her, her cockatoo, harp, and hip bath to come and stay… and she turns up. Havoc ensues!
From my review: “Sometimes sinister, sometimes sad, sometimes hilariously funny – Miss Hargreaves covers more or less all the bases, always written in the sort of delicious writing which is hardly found anymore. Miss H is one of the best characters of the twentieth century, in my opinion, and I really cannot encourage you enough to find this extraordinary book.”
In short: Miss Mole is a mischievous 40-something woman who seeks work as a housekeeper, to the embarrassment of her cousin. She helps the family she ends up with, without the novel ever becoming too sickly sweet.
From my review: “When it comes to drawing characters, she is really rather brilliant. Miss Mole is a creation of whom Jane Austen would be proud, and I think I’ll remember her for some time.”
In short: Taking the extremely popular, critically mauled novelist Marie Corelli as her inspiration, Taylor documents the life of a humourless, ruthlessly selfish writer who believes herself to be a genius and alienates everybody around her.
From my review: “Angel Deverell is never a likeable character; quite the reverse. Even so, Elizabeth Taylor creates in her a character of pathos, and it is difficult to take any pleasure in her downfalls, however deserved. It is testament to Taylor’s talent that such an unpleasant protagonist can inhabit a thoroughly compelling novel.”
In short: The best of Comyns’ later novels, Mr Fox is a charming but tempestuous World War Two spiv whose life is entangled with that of the heroine, Caroline. The novel has Comyns’ trademark surrealism.
From my review: “With air raids and rationing and evacuees, Comyns uses the recognisable elements of every wartime novel or memoir, but distorts them with her unusual style and choice of focus.”
In short: A Hungarian novel about what loving but overly-dependent parents go through when their ugly, not-young-anymore daughter goes away for a while. A really beautiful book.
From my review: “This narrative is so clever and subtly written. It is a mixture of quite pathetic inability to manage in their daughter’s absence, with a glimpse of what life would be like without her.”