Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Tea at four o'clock (McNeil) 275

Tea at four o'clock was kindly lent to me by Simon from Stuck-in-a-book and was an unexpectedly delightful read.

We meet Laura, the main protagonist just after her sister Mildred has died. Laura has nursed Mildred for many years, and even after death remains under the shadow. The book tells the story of both Laura's life and of what she will do next; the former being strongly influential on the latter. Laura's estranged brother George, the black sheep of the family, materialises and offers Laura hospitality, but turns out to be predominantly interested in Laura's money. We learn quite why Laura spent so long nursing a sister whom she didn't especially care for - a huge sense of guilt, over what is revealed by George to have been a completely mistaken belief.

And why the title? Until Mildred's death Laura was bound by the ritual of Mildred liking tea at 4. She used to have to rush home from an outing to town or cut short domestic chores in order to be there to pour the tea. With Mildred dead, Laura's freedom is symbolised by the fact that she is no longer constrained by this.

I know Janet McNeill as the author of the children's book The battle of St George without, which my Mum read as a little girl. This is the only book of hers published as a VMC, but I must have a look to see if she has written any more adult fiction.

Just the one VMC edition above.


  1. I like this - you can test drive my Viragos for me! I've not read this yet, though I've had it for years, so now I will do so.

  2. Oh yes, and I'm afraid I didn't end up going into college today... might pop in tomorrow, otherwise I'm afraid it'll be next week...

  3. Hehe - I like the test drive idea :)