Wednesday, 17 August 2011
Those Verney Girls
I hope you don’t think I’m too odd if I recommend you to read a girl’s book, but that is exactly what I do here. This is one of my ultimate comfort books that I always rerun to when I need a bit of cheering up. Gwendoline Courtney (1911-1996) wrote several girl’s books that I have been told are all very funny, but I have only ever read Those Verney Girls. It was translated to Swedish, but I would probably never have read it had not my Mum had a copy. It was first published in 1948 with the title Stepmother and have also been released under Elizabeth and the Garret Theatre.
The books is about four sisters, aged 9 to 17, who lives with their widowed father in an idyllic English village. A life filled with love and literature, but sorely lacking in beauty and good food- not to mention manners. When the father suddenly re-marries, the girls decide to make life as difficult as possible for their new stepmother, which turns out to be very difficult. Far from being a wicked ste-mother, Nan proves to be friendluy and caring and wins the sisters over, one by one. That’s basically it, but of course that alone don’t make a book. There’s an important sub-plot in the sister’s passion for theatre, an interest they share with their father and their best friend, a boy called Owl and, it turns out, also by Nan. There’s also a little Cinderella twist complete with a prince in the form of famous actor Nigel Gifford, though the stepmother is more of like the fairy godmother. This is a very funny book , set in a world where no one is wicked- the worst we get here are The Owl’s snobbish relatives who just snobbish. It’s very easy to warm up to the sisters, the beautiful but shy Alison, fiery Elizabeth with her passions, practical Susan and michevious George. Most character are charming, especially Nan and Nigel. And there is always time for sumptuous food, do not, under any circumstance, read this book when you are hungry! Another thing I like with this book is that even if it was written in the 40’s and though it clearly express the idea that being a wife and homemaker is something positive, it doesn’t present that as the ultimate live who fits everybody. Rather the stress lays on finding the path in life that suits you.
This book actually prompted me to look up what the fashion looked like in the forties. There are numerous clothing references and I wanted to get an idea what Alison’s “snowdrop-gown” could have looked like, or Nan’s evening gown in gold lame. Not to mention The Hat… So if you want a nice read that will leave you in a good mood, then I think you should dig up a copy!
Oh, and I read somewhere that Nigel Gifford was very much inspired by the young Laurence Olivier, so that is what he looks like to my minds eyes.