Monday, 28 February 2011

Ellen Foster (Kaye Gibbons)

Ellen Foster is yet another book from my loot a couple of weeks ago - I'm slowly working my way through the pile and enjoying it immensely! I had read one other VMC by the author already, Sights unseen, a book about madness and electro-shock therapy, but it hadn't stayed with me so I wasn't sure what to expect from Ellen Foster.

Told from the perspective of Ellen, a ten year old, this is a wonderful depiction of a girl dealing with a gruelling family life and eventually finding a home. It's a tale of survival - Ellen's mother and then father die, but he is such a non-father that it is almost a relief when that happens. Poverty, abuse, and being shuttled around between relatives are all things that Ellen has to contend with.

Another interesting sub-plot to the book is Ellen's friendship with a negro girl Starletta; the book is set just as segregation is coming to an end, which is why it is possible for the two to be friends. However, Ellen's unbringing makes it initially very difficult for her to relax in Starletta's company - for example, when she is forced to stay over at Starletta's house, she sleeps on top of the bed, with her clothes on, so that she can't actually have been considered to have slept there.

I remember now that I picked this out particularly because Ellen was described in one blurb as a Southern Holden Caulfield [Catcher in the Rye] - I'm not sure this is a very accurate or fair description as although Ellen certainly tells things like they are, in an immediate first person style, she has far more assurance than Caulfield and very real difficult circumstances to contend with. There isn't any of the teenage angst that there is in the Catcher in the Rye.

This seems to be an extremely popular book with bookclubs, especially in the US. It's only been published once by Virago with a modern green cover, but there are numerous other editions.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

The sugar mother (Jolley)

I pulled The sugar mother from my Awesome Books loot quite early on as my friend Claire commented that the author was on her radar; that was enough for me to choose it over another, but in practice it took me two goes before I could get through what I found to be a rather weird little book.

It is about a middle-aged university professor, Edwin Page, whose wife, Cecilia has gone abroad for a year on a research sabbatical. Early on, his next-door neighbour and her daughter Leila, lock themselves out of their house, and Page comes to their assistance. They quickly latch onto him and he invites them to move in. Mrs Botts, the mother, then suggests that Edwin should use Leila as a "sugar mother" (i.e. surrogate mother), and Leila becomes pregnant, although it is not obvious whether or not the baby belongs to Edwin. I found this all really difficult to believe in - does this sort of thing really go on? Do I just live in a sheltered existence?! The story isn't exactly resolved either, Cecilia has not returned and we are left wondering what will happen when she does.

This has just been published once by Virago with a modern cover, although it does also have a bright green spine.

One of Jolley's other novels, The newspaper on Claremount Street, is also a VMC.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

One way of love (Gamel Woolsey) 239

Another titles from my Awesome Books loot that I had never come across before; I don't think I've ever seen this title mentioned before. And again, how wonderful to discover a book that I really enjoyed reading that I would not have found had it not been for this project.

The book centres around the somewhat naieve character of Mariana Clare. Brought up on a childhood diet of fairy tales, she is convinced that eternal love exists and is desperate to find it. Finding herself in New York, alone, aged 21, she meets a set of artist friends. Several try to encourage her into bed, but believing in the importance of love, she refuses. A man named Alan spends considerable time wooing her, and eventually succeeds in persuading her to let him make love to her, but it is a while before she actually feels anything for him. Despite this, they marry, but it seems that Alan is primarily interested in the idea of being in love with her, and in making love and isn't actually in love with her. The slightly doomed partnership seems further doomed when they head to London to try to build a life there, although several months in Looe in Cornwall (this pleased me especially as I love to see Cornwall referred to in books) helps, but they do eventually part.

As the blurb on the back of the book says, when this happens she "is still left with "a curious fear that if she were not to find a lover she would be lonely in another world as well as this". I loved the way that the book gave such great insight into the thoughts of Mariana: who hasn't longed for love that will last forever and ever.

Apparently, although it was supposed to be published in 1932, it was withdrawn after The well of loneliness was taken to court for sexual explicitness. Although One way of love is sexually explicit at points in the story, I did not find it in bad taste as can sometimes be the case. It was eventually published in 1987, having been rescued by Virago from the British Museum which held a copy of the proof.

It's just been published once by Virago, with an original green cover, and I would say that it is definitely an underrated one. (The author was primarily a poet and this was her first novel, and you can read a fuller account of her life here)

Monday, 21 February 2011

A wreath for the enemy (Frankau)

I was spurred onto read this Frankau when a reader called Harriet visited this blog and commented on one of my other Frankau posts, The Willow Cabin (the other being The Winged Horse, which I did not enjoy so much) which reminded me that I still had another volume of hers to go.

A "coming of age" novel, the book, which falls into three sections, centres around the character of Penelope Wells. A precocious child, she lives in a hotel in the French Riviera with her parents. One summer she meets the far more conventional Bradley children; whilst the children get on well, the Bradley parents find the hotel disreputable and the friendship sadly ends. But the childhood encounters and an episode at the end of their friendship proves strongly influential on the lives of both Penelope, and Don Bradley. Penelope seeks order as an adult, and Don rebels against his family values, and it is this which is explored in the other two sections of the book. The middle section is told through the eyes of Don, as he develops a friendship with a man called Crusoe, involved in the horse-racing scene, and the final section returns to Penelope.

Perhaps it wasn't quite as captivating as some of the other "coming of age" VMC novels, I capture the castle or The constant nymph, for example, but I did find it very absorbing and different, and not at all dated (which, although I hate to say it about a range branded as "classics" can sometime be the case), and according to the introduction by Rafaella Barker, it is strongly autobiographical.

It's just been published once by Virago with an original green cover, but bizarrely appears in my VMC master-list with two numbers - I can't quite explain this. I love the cover image and would be glad to see the Frankau books (which I have now read all of, or at least the VMC ones - she wrote 33 in total) back in print. I think however that The Willow Cabin remains my favourite of the three.

*edit* the second number is a mistake - 272 which I previously mentioned on this post actually belongs to Willa Cather - One of ours

Sunday, 20 February 2011

New Daphne Du Maurier Short Story Collection in May.

I already knew about this from the list of VMC titles to be released in 2011 that I was kindly sent by Sophie from Virago at the end of last year, but I was excited to see a mention of it in the Bookseller - some previously unpublished (and other) stories from Daphne Du Maurier will be released in May. You can read more about it here.

The blurb that I recieved from Virago says:

‘I want to know if men realise when they are insane. Sometimes I think that my brain cannot hold together, it is filled with too much horror – too much despair . . . I cannot sleep, I cannot close my eyes without seeing his damned face. If only it had been a dream.’ In ‘The Doll’, a waterlogged notebook is washed ashore. Its pages tell a dark story of obsession and jealousy. But the fate of its narrator is a mystery. Many of the stories in this haunting collection have only recently been discovered. Most were written early in Daphne du Maurier’s career, yet they display her mastery of atmosphere, tension and intrigue and reveal a cynicism far beyond her years.

Daphne Du Maurier is one of my very favourite authors so I don't need to say quite how excited I am about this!

‘I w

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Rose in bloom (Alcott) 338

I ticked Rose in Bloom off my VMC list quite near to the start of the project; I never set out to reread books as part of VVV if I had already read them at some point before I began, and I had read both Eight Cousins and Rose in Bloom whilst at school. But I hankered after my own copies and was very excited to get Rose in Bloom as part of my Awesome Books loot this week. Particularly as the copy that arrived was in almost pristine condition.

I still didn't plan to reread it, rather just put it onto my bookshelves, particularly as it is the second in a pair of books, but something made me pop it into my bag yesterday. and I'm really glad I did. I started off by skipping over the introduction and attacking the novel, but then something made me turn back. Written by Sara Maitland, it set a book that I can remember reading at school into the far broader context of women's literature at a level that I would not have appreciated when I read the Puffin classics edition at the bottom of this post merely for its story (and I am ashamed to say that I would have, if you'd asked me, dismissed it as a children's book, based on the fact that I read it at school, when actually I think it is more than that).

The book follows on from Eight Cousins, which I am now also keen to reread (particularly if that has an interesting introduction!), and tells the tale of Rose, now a woman of fortune as she tries to find her place in the world as an adult, coming out as a debutante, falling in love and learning who her friends are. Yes, it is sentimental, but it is also very interesting.

According to Maitland, Alcott was strongly influenced by the belief of transcendentalist philosophy, and this informed her concept of the "ideal woman" which is what she wants to portray Rose as. It was a movement believing in the "divine sufficiency of the individual" - in other words, it is about being true to oneself, with the virtues of strong-mindedness, self-control and self-knowledge being the most important. And this is the underpinning philosophy that Alcott used to draw the character of Rose.

Maitland also draws parallels between this and other Alcott sequels; Rose in Bloom is a sequel to Eight Cousins like Good Wives follows on from Little Women and Jo's Boys follows from Little men. The first books focus on childhood and moral education whereas their sequels are more romantic, and look at the issue of finding one's marriage partner, frequently ending with engagement. This Maitland suggests was typical of the time for books aimed at the adolescent but may also have reflected that Alcott herself never married (how that surprised me!)

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Hackenfeller's Ape (Brophy)

I have dived straight in with the books that arrived from Awesome books yesterday; it was difficult to decide what to pick first as I was immediately tempted by more than half of the pile (and how easy it is now to ignore the poor languishing VMCs). I was especially gratified to see that some of the books which arrived were really quite short, so having read some chunksters this year, I thought I deserved to make a start with one of the novellas and I picked up Hackenfeller's ape by Brigid Brophy. I had not come across this until my perusal of the Awesome Books website. And what an interesting VMC it is. It is the first one that I have come across where one of the principal characters is an animal.

Percy is a rare Hackenfeller's ape at the London zoo. (We are told that Hackenfeller discovered these apes in the nineteenth century and they are particularly special because they are so very similar to humans). He lives with his fellow-ape Edwina. The pair are befriended by Professor Darrelhyde who is determined to see the pair mate, apparently they have a very beautiful mating ritual and he is also concerned to protect their future. One day The Professor (as he is described) finds out that Percy's owner has arranged for him to be shot into space, and becomes deeply concerned to save him. The rest of the book is about how he arranges the escape; and the end is somewhat bittersweet and not wholly expected.

Really enjoyed this novella; it was certainly not what I was expecting from a VMC, and whilst dealing with the issue of the treatment of animals by humans, it is extremely readaboe.

This title has just been published once by Virago in the italicised green edition. As I checked it off on my spreadsheet masterplan I spotted that Brophy has another VMC, King of a rainy country, which now intrigues me. (Wonder if that rainy country is the UK - you will have seen the rain in the photo I took when the books arrived!).

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

A slight confession

Oops - I just picked up 19 VMCs which I didn't have/had not read courtesy of having a discount code for Awesome books - £36 including postage! Well, our household income has now doubled now that OH is back at work.

But most of them I've not really come across and having felt inspired recently to get on with my VVV again after the stagnation in the latter part of the year, I feel justified in ordering them as it should make a bit more - will make a bit more of a dent in my Virago reading venture. Here's the list:

Expensive people (Joyce Carol Oates)
The grain of truth (Nina Bawden) - excited by this as realised the other day that I still had one of her books left to read and it was this one! Nina Bawden is one of the VMC authors with a large output that I have consistently enjoyed.
New York Mosaic: "Do I Wake or Sleep", "Christmas Tree", "Many Mansions" (Isabel Bolton)
The sugar mother (Elizabeth Jolley)
The fly on the wheel (Katherine Thurston) - not heard of this author
Rose in Bloom (Louisa May Alcott) - I've always wanted this one since finding out that it was a VMC
The rock cried out (Ellen Douglas) - one of those authors who have only one VMC published.
Curious if true, Strange tales by Mrs Gaskell (Elizabeth Gaskell) - should be good!
A stricken field (Martha Gelhorn) - I have another of her books on my VMC TBR
One way of love (Gamel Woolsey) - another one-book author I've never heard of.
One of ours (Willa Cather) - I really like her books which I only encountered through reading my way through the VMCs.
The bread and butter stories (Mary Norton) - I've heard that this is good, and am intrigued as Mary Norton to me = Bedknob and Broomstick (which I loved!)
The gooseboy (A.L. Barker) - just finished John Brown's Body by the same which I quite enjoyed
Ellen Foster (Kaye Gibbons) - this is described as a southern, female version of Holden Caulfield which intrigues me!
Phoenix Fled (Attia Hossein) - just finished her other VMC, Sunlight on a broken column which was very different from the run of the mill so will be itnerested to see this.
Hackenfeller's Ape (Brigid Brophy) - never come across this before
Another time, another place (Jessie Kesson) - enjoyed one of her novels the other month
A favourite of the gods (Sybille Bedford) - I enjoyed her Compass error a year or so ago...

Awesome books are definitely Awesome - far better deals than the cheapest books on ebay or Amazon! Probably will regret sharing my secret!

Monday, 14 February 2011

Death comes for the archbishop (Cather)

What a coincidence it was to put this book into my bag and then read a review by Rachel from Book Snob! I do hope you'll go and read her review, as I need to save my fingers a bit as I am starting to suffering from what may be RSI and I need to limit my typing :(

As Rachel says, it's very different from her prairie/pioneering books; I've read some of her non-prairie books before (particularly Alexander's Bridge) which I loved. Sadly I didn't find this one so enjoyable - more of a narrative than a novel, it is a series of sketches concerning two French Catholics who come to America to spread religion among the Mexicans. It sounded promising but there wasn't sufficient story to grip me.

It's been published three times by Virago, and I had the third, most modern version from the library.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Marriage (Ferrier)

I'm not sure why I had not come to Marriage by Susan Ferrier before, particularly with my forthcoming nuptials making me home in on anything potentially wedding/marriage related. But anyway, I spotted it on Amazon and ordered it for Virago Reading Week. As it was quite a chunky tome, it took me a little longer to actually pick it up. But I did this week.

Ferrier has sometimes been described as a Scottish Jane Austen; it's difficult to say whether or not that is true from reading one book. Certainly there were elements of social manners. I'm afraid that I struggle with 19th century fiction so this wasn't one of my favourite VMCs. It starts off well - our heroine, Lady Juliana is about to be forced into marriage with an ancient earl by her father, simply because he represents the best prospects. Just before, she elopes with a penniless man. They go to Scotland, where his father is based, simply because they do not have any money to live on! She struggles with the rugged Scottish castle where she is now forced to live, and a marriage which does not seem likely to be successful now that the initial romance has disappeared. Twin daughters follow, and then the focus of the story shifts to them; a change in fortune means that Lady Juliana can move to London, but she only takes one of the girls with her. We then follow the differences in their upbringings, a classic story of contrast. I thought that this latter part of the book lacked the drive and humour of the first part; it is a long book and might have been better as a shorter book perhaps? I read in the introduction that Ferrier started out co-writing it with another lady, who dropped out early on, and I wonder if that is responsible for its over-longness?

It's just been published once by Virago with an original green cover.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

The Ponder heart (Welty)

The Ponder Heart by Welty was one of the books that I picked up on my visit to Woodstock at the end of Virago Reading Week and it didn't wait long on my TBR pile, mainly because it is a slim volume and I thought I could get it out of the way fast! I have read 3 of Welty's novels already for this blog - Losing Battles and Delta Wedding, which I didn't get on with very well, and The Robber Bridegroom, which I loved. Whilst I liked the tone of this book, I am afraid it fell into the category of the first two that I read.

The book is narrated by Edna Earle, and tells the story of the Ponder family, centering primarily around the character of her Uncle Daniel, who we discover was falsely accused of murdering his wife. The content and plot of the book isn't really its main focus however, rather the book is more about a depiction of small town life in Missisippi at the start of the last century.

As I've noted before when writing about Welty's work, I'm still not convinced that she is the author for me, but I know that her book The optimist's daughter is supposed to be the best of them, so until I have read that I will suspend my judgement!

This book has been published twice by Virago, once in an original green cover, which I own, and once in a modern cover.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Seven for a secret (Webb) 93

I'm afraid I read Seven for a secret ages ago - way before Christmas I think. It's been hiding and I only just stumbled on it when I was tidying up my library books pile. Unfortunately, it wasn't terribly memorable, so there isn't much I can say about it at this later date, except that if you like Mary Webb's style and themes (pastoral Shropshire, a bit Thomas Hardyish) then you will probably enjoy this one. One of my colleagues who likes VMCs too quite likes Mary Webb, so I have lent the volume to her and we both commented on how lovely the picture on the front is. Probably the best thing about this book for me. Sadly, there is still quite a lot of Mary Webb left on the list...

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

John Brown's Body (Barker)

I have never read anything by A.L. Barker, although I have heard of her and for a while I have been keen to read her book "The haunt", because it is set in my beloved Cornwall. John Brown's Body was on the 1970 Booker Shortlist so I hoped that it would be rather good.

It's a clever novel, that is told through two differing viewpoints - Marise, a young and naieve girl, who is married to Jack, a travelling salesman - and Ralph, who owns the building where the couple live. Marise believes that Ralph is John Brown, a man from the neighbourhood of her childhood who was accused of, but later acquited, of the gruesome murders of a pair of sisters. Ralph starts to play along with her fantasies and also starts to act differently from his staid and comfortable character and the book develops into an investigation into the ways of escapism. In no way straightforward, this book certainly made me think hard as I read it,

It has only been published once with a modern green cover. I shall be looking forward to reading the other two A.L. Barker's on my VMC list, "Gooseboy" and "Submerged", neither of which have passed my way yet.

Anyone else read anything by her?

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Illyrian Spring (Bridge) 348

From the unenjoyable to the wonderful; it pleased me to spend some of the weekend reading Illyrian Spring after battling through more Edith Wharton last week. I had been looking forward to coming to this book for sometime since it is one of those VMCs that everyone has read it raves about it. I had decided that I would not read it until I got a copy for myself (often they retail at £20+ on Amazon), and thanks to Rachel mentioning that there were a couple of reasonably priced copies when she wrote about it as part of Virago Reading Week (both now sadly gone), I managed to pick up one for only £5.80. The item was described as in "good" condition, but the book that turned up far exceeded my expectations - apart from one spine crease it is in excellent condition so I am very pleased to have it for my collection.

I didn't know anything about the title when I sat down to read it; a colleague of mine has had it ordered up to one of the reading rooms where I work where she is slowly savouring her way through it, but despite seeing it almost every day I had resisted even reading the blurb on the back. For me, the book felt a little like An enchanted April or A room with a view; I could imagine it being made into a lovely film that full of the wonderful atmosphere that Ann Bridge evokes in the book.

It's a novel of escape. The principal character Grace, Lady Kilmichael, is frustrated by her family and her life and goes off to Dalmatia to paint, take some time out and perhaps find herself. There, she meets a young man, Nicholas, also a painter, and also struggling to find his place amid familial expectations. An unlikely friendship forms and the time they spend together enables them to come to terms with their lives.

For me, it wasn't so much the story that I enjoyed, but the wonderful setting and easy writing enabled me to gulp the book down in an afternoon. I shall lend it to my colleague so that she can take it home and enjoy it in a more leisurely fashion than snatched moments at work!

It's just been published the once by Virago, with an original green cover, and now having read it, I want to add my voice to the masses who want them to bring it out again. I really think that there would be a market for a modern cover edition of this book, it would make a lovely summer read (or equally a winter read where one wants to think of warmer climes)

Ann Bridge's first novel, Peking Picnic, is also a VMC, and I have to confess to ordering myself a copy from Amazon to indulge in. I hope it will prove as enjoyable; if it looks like it will do, then I may suffer another couple of Edith Wharton's first...

Friday, 4 February 2011

Custom of the country (Wharton)

I've done two Edith Whartons so far on this blog, and really they did not excite me very much. A colleague who reads this blog lent me her copy of Custom of the country quite a while ago; I can't remember what she said about it but it was along the lines of "this one will make you like Edith Wharton". I'm afraid it took me a while to get to, and it was only Virago Reading Week and the mention of this title by Laura, and a link to her review, that made me finally take it home from my desk and start reading it. I'm sorry Ali, but although I enjoyed it slightly more than the last ones it just didn't really do it for me. I think the issue is that I don't particularly enjoy the setting very much, but I guess I'm going to have to learn to enjoy books about New York "society" and social climbing as there are 16 Edith Whartons in total on the VMC list.

As Laura has written such an elegant review, I think I'll direct you over there, rather than struggle to write a post about a book which I didn't enjoy very much. Wharton along with Keane is an author that I wish Virago hadn't published so much of.

My borrowed copy was a Bantam Classic edition; it looks like it has only been published once in a green italicized edition.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Playing the harlot (Patricia Avis)

Why is it so much easier to read Viragos recently acquired than those which had been languishing in my posession for some time? (I may take a photo of those at some point soon so that you can all persuade me to read them!). Playing the harlot by Patricia Avis is another one from my recent tranch of VMC acquisitions. I originally read about this book here at Danielle's blog, but had long since forgotten that I wanted to read it. I guess I knew I'd get to it eventually, such is the nature of this project, but that didn't stop me being amused to reread my comment back in 2009. I was particularly pleased by the books alternative title: Mostly coffee which I liked very much and thought might actually have made a good proper title.

Apparently a "roman a clef" which is a sort of fictional memoir, it was far more enjoyable than the last roman a clef, a term which I had not previously encountered until I came across Bid me to live. As the back of the book states, it was originally rejected for publication by an eminent publisher because it slandered his friends. His friends including that well-known librarian, Phillip Larkin. Avis had an affair with Larkin in the 1950s. Avis did not have a very successful career as a novelist, although she had much poetry published, she had no success with her books, and in fact killed herself with an overdose after her second novel was turned down.

Playing the harlot is a lively novel centring around the lives of several women in the 1950s, all students when we first encounter them. I warmed to Mary, the principal character immediately, when we meet her writing to her parents, who live in another country, attempting to persuade them that she should move out of the convent accommodation where she at present lodges; her letters to them which recur in the book amused me immensely as she invariably writes to inform them of something that they might disapprove of/ask for money but couched in terms to elicit their approval.

Other characters include Theo, with whom she moves to share a flat, and Abigail, an art student. And of course there is a cast of men. Mary marries Pete, a medical student, but it is Rollo, the supposed Larkin character, with whom she has an affair. And the book follows them all as they leave college and move around the country, apparently drawing on Avis' experience of living in France and in the countryside and in London as well as in the provinical town where the book begins.

It's just been published once by Virago with the modern green cover.

Sunlight on a broken column (Hosain)

I spotted Sunlight on a broken column at work the other day; someone had ordered it up from the Bodleian bookstacks. It wasn't one I'd ever seen so I read the blurb and was immediately intrigued. As I've often said before, the VMC collection covers so many different worlds, in terms of time, space...and now religion. I haven't come across another VMC dealing with Muslim life before (although do let me know if you know of one). I wanted my own copy, but it is extortionately expensive on Amazon, but luckily the local library had a hardback of a different edition, so having at least seen the VMC version, I decided to read it.

It was an extremely rich read, painting evocative pictures of life in the 1930s in a Muslim family in India. It centres around the character of Leila, an orphan girl who is brought up by her deeply religious aunts. Aged 15, she moves to live with her Uncle, at a time when the independence issue (at this time, India was struggling to gain independence from Great Britain) becomes increasingly pointed, and those around her are involved in politics. Her Uncle is quite a big contrast to the aunts, he is more liberal, and Leila struggles to make sense of the two different households against the political climate.

I found a fascinating interview with the author online here which sheds far more light on the book than I can.

This book has some intriguing cover history it seems. It's been published only in an original green edition, but there is also a penguin green edition. This isn't hugely unusual, but what is unusual is that the penguin green edition has a different cover image to the Virago version. Hvae never seen this before in over 300 VMCs! Has anyone else seen this on one of the VMCs that I have yet to come to?

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Dust Falls on E. Schlumberger/Toddler on the Run (Mackay) 336

The first book I picked up from my binge of books (I quite like that phrase for describing over purchase, although really a book binge would more accurately describe overconsumption), was a slim volume containing two novellas by Shena Mackay. It's the second time I've "done" Shena Mackay on this blog, although I am familiar with some of her later writing, which has even featured on my other blog.

The two novellas are Dust Falls on E. Schlumberger and Toddler on the Run and were apparently Mackay's first books to be published. If you enjoy 1960s depictions of working class life, then you will probably be intrigued by these - I liked them, but not as much as I enjoyed Nell Dunn's books which are somewhat similar, perhaps because there is less scope with a novella than with something longer.

The first book was the one that I liked best. It tells of the schoolgirl Abigail, and her lover Eugene, who rebellious against authority, go joy riding. They crash the car and Eugene is sent to prison. This only fuels Abigail's adolescent torments. It was a good insight into adolescent angst and made me wonder about Mackay's teenage years!

Toddler on the run is more disjointed; there are several stories running through the novella whichI found it a little difficult to keep track of. Primarily though it is the story of a very small man, who is less than four feet tall, and the relationship he has on the run with a girl called Leda. It was adapted for television, and I think the different threads would work quite well there, as they do in soap operas.

This book has been published not only in the original green edition which I picked up (and which I think has an extremely striking cover image), but also in a modern version too. Many of Mackay's other books have been published by Virago, although only this and Music Upstairs are VMCs.