So last week I decided to tackle two more Mary Webb books which had been languishing in the TBR pile. Not overly enamoured by the ones that I've read so far (is it really only three, it feels like many more), but at least there is only one more to go after these two, the first and last books that she wrote.
The golden arrow was Webb's first novel, apparently penned in just under three weeks. Set in a poor farming community in Shropshire and strongly infused with Christian morals, it tells the story of Stephen and Deb who are searching for a "golden arrow" which is said to bind couples together if it is found on Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, an old Shropshire legend. He was originally a preacher, but came to reject religion and convinces Deb to live with him out of wedlock which is the start of their downfall. Although they later get married, Stephen feels tied down and finds it difficult to love Deb in the same way.
The armour wherein he trusted was Webb's last novel and was in fact unfinished. It certainly feels quite "bitty" compared to her earlier works, and it is published here with 10 short (in some cases only two pages) stories. The main story is supposedly a medieval romance, set in the 11th century where an abbot named Sir Gilbert recalls his early life as a knight and his spiritual struggles to follow Christ. It seems to be very much a didactic book about trying to achieve heavenly ideals rather than earthly ones.
I enjoyed the short stories rather more, especially a little one about a woman who yearns to recieve a bouquet of flowers. Quite an extravagance, and really she is lucky enough to have money to put in the gas and to buy tea. However, she gives in to the desire and decides to treat herself to some flowers for her birthday. The day before, she goes to the market, chooses the ones she wants in her bouquet, tells the market seller that they are for a dear friend, and goes home for a sleepless night filled with anticipation of the next day. She waits, and waits and waits. Where are the flowers? Of course her landlady thought that they couldn't possibly be for her. It's like a kick in the stomach after the anticipation of seeing her get the flowers.
Both of these have just been published once by Virago with the original green covers.