You know that, even when you have hundreds of unread books, not a lot of spare cash, and no spare reading time – sometimes, even with these limitations, a book will make you buy it? Impossible-to-resist, head-straight-to-Amazon-to-buy sort of book? Well, my e-friend Lyn (from dovegreybooks Yahoo group, a source of many such books) mentioned one the other day, and, mere days later, it is in front of me.
It’s The Bread and Butter Stories by Mary Norton. For those who recognise the name but can’t think where, it’s probably because she is the author of The Borrowers, a back I’m shamefully never read, but indeed to do so soon. We grew up loving the TV series. I’ll tell you what Lyn wrote about it, not sure where it’s quoted from, perhaps the Virago website…
Reminiscent of Elizabeth von Arnim and Elizabeth Taylor, these 15 recently discovered short stories by the author of The Borrowers are wonderful period pieces about being an upper-middle class woman in the 1940s and early 50s. Many are reminiscent of Brief Encounter with their longings for adventure or romance to break the stifling constraints on their lives. Here are respectable conventional women settled into dull marriages finding themselves entertaining the notion of an affair while on holiday; a dowdy woman who suddenly decides to have her face done and take the £1.00 post-office savings and blow it on a fine hat. Then there are funny, satirical pieces: useful knowledge like how to cure cold feet at bedtime, a sideways look at acting for a television drama and a very entertaining and fascinating piece on writing for children which includes dialogue with an editor who wants short words and happy stories. Written with a wry and gentle humour, the collection makes for fascinating reading.
Doesn’t it sound wonderful? I’ve yet to read them, but it will only be a matter of time… Lyn did only mention the book four days ago, after all. I have read the Introduction by Mary Norton’s daughter – apparently Mary Norton called these stories ‘bread and butter stories’ because they put bread and butter on the table – written for magazines, but not published together until the 1990s when found in the attic… I’ll report back when I’m done, but I’m willing to bet at least one person will already be scrambling to Amazon or abebooks to get their hands on a copy!