Saturday, 10 April 2010

Tortoise by candlelight; Familiar Passions (Bawden)

Two Bawden books for you today! Firstly, Tortoise by candlelight. Set in the 1960s, this is a book about 14-year old Emmie and her family - her aged grandmother, her restrictive father, her elder and slightly wilder sister Alice, and her younger brother Oliver who seems to need a lot of looking after. In fact, all of the family seem to need Emmie's care and attention. However, the control that this gives her changes when the family gain new neighbours who become involved in their life. As ever, the plot is not as important as the investigation of relationships. Not my favourite Nina Bawden by any means, but certainly enjoyable.

Unusually for Nina Bawden, this VMC has been published twice, including in an original green edition (I've only seen one other of her titles (A little love, a little learning) with an original green cover so far). And I am fortunate enough to have this edition! Both versions have the same picture however. 3*

Secondly, Familiar passions, which is a Bawden that I've been wanting to read for quite some time - it was the book I was most tempted to break my pre-Christmas book-buying ban for, but strangely after I started buying books again I didn't get around to buying it for a while. It turned out to be a typically enjoyable Bawden read. The book opens with Bridie and James celebrating their thirtieth wedding anniversary in a nice restaurant; an adopted child, Bridie married James aged 19. He was a widower with two children, and Bridie brought them up and had her own child. However, when they get home after the meal, James announces that he wants to leave her. The rest of the book is concerned with the outcome of this statement and Bridie's struggles to find her own identity beyond the marriage and given the circumstances of her adoption. Bridie feels that she needs to at some level reclaim her past in order to have any sort of future. I really enjoyed this one, which has only been published once by Virago in the italicised cover version. 4*

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