Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Olivia Manning: The play room (148); Doves of Venus (149)

The play room is definitely my favourite of Manning's novels, perhaps because it is my favourite sort of story, that of a girl growing up and "coming of age". I love to read tales of other people's experiences, particularly the more unconventional ones, since my own childhood and teenagedom was really quite dull.
This novel is set in the 1960s by the seaside (perhaps this is another reason why I enjoyed it since I like to visit small seaside resorts) and deals with the life of Laura, who longs to grow up and move to London. One of the main threads through the book is her friendship with Vicky; initially Laura admires her from afar and is surprised when they become friends. Other threads in the story include sibling relationships and Laura's feeling that she is the unfavoured child, image and Laura's dissatisfaction with her looks, and mother-daughter relationships.
This certainly contains all the elements needed for an excellent "coming of age" story, so if you like that sort of thing that I would warmly recommend it.

The doves of venus seems almost to be the twin of The Playroom. Like Laura, the main protagonist Ellie grows up in a small seaside town and hopes to escape to London. Unlike Laura, she manages to make the move to London and we follow her life in the metropolis. To some extent it is what she hoped for, meeting a boyfriend, but at the same time she struggles to take advantage of all of the excitements available due to her limited income, frequently having to choose between having toast or cake when out in a tea shop. The boyfriend also is not what he seems - he is a man about town who goes around picking up young girls.

Unfortunately I don't have copies of either of these, I borrowed them from the library, but would love to add them to my collection should I ever spot them around. I would certainly swap my copy of The wind changes for either of them. I currently have another Manning book, The school of love, which is not a VMC on my TBR pile and having revisited these two books I am looking forward to it.


  1. I am lucky enough to have both of these books and look forward to reading them. I love coming-of-age stories too.

  2. I have The Doves of Venus and surprise, surprise, have yet to read it! I am eager to after this review though. Thanks for another enlightening post Verity!

  3. I too have the Doves of Venus and have never read it! I love coming-of-age stories too!

  4. I am sure you will all enjoy these books and maybe you will all be inspired to get out Doves of Venus very soon

    I read a non VMC Manning yesterday - School for love - but it wasn't as good as either of these.