Book Review: Martini Henry by Sara Crowe

Martini Henry

It took me a little time and perseverance to find my way with this book.  It’s the second book by Sara Crowe, perhaps best known as an actress and particularly as an actress in Four Weddings and a Funeral.  Her first novel was called Campari for Breakfast and has been on my TBR list for a while.  So, when I was offered her second novel by the generous folk at Penguin Random House to review I jumped at the chance.

First things first.  I love the cover, even if perhaps its’ a little Young Adult in appearance, the contemporary colours and pop art influence appeal. Secondly,  in the blurb I received from the publishers, this novel is described as being perfect for fans of ‘I Capture the Castle’ and ‘Love Nina’ . Promising,  as I’m a fan of both of those.

Sue Bowl, is 18 years old.  When we meet Sue, she is on a creative writing course in Greece.  Her mother has fairly recently died and her father is newly married and about to become a father again with his new wife.  Her closest relative is her Aunt Coral who lives in, a crumbling house in England.  Her lovely and dependable boyfriend Joe is at home and her greatest wish in life is to become a writer.  Just as Sue is settling into the writing life in Greece, making friends with other ‘like-minded’ souls she is called back to England as her new half brother is born prematurely and not expected to live.  At about his time Sue begins reading a tome of a novel called ‘For the Concern of the Rich and the Poor’, which just happens to be about London Taylor and the ancestors of Green Place the house where Sue lives with her aunt.

This is when the two stories run along side each other. The first is the story of Sue and her exploits told largely through her diary entries and daily ‘penses’.  The second is the story of London Taylor from the pages of the novel. The stories converge as Aunt Coral and Sue, now back at Green Place,  struggling with unemployment and an attraction to a man who isn’t Joe  set about searching for the lost jewellery mentioned in the book and likely hidden in the grounds of Green Place.

The eccentricity of the British middle class is played out beautifully here with the collection of admirals, academics and privileged bohemians that make up Sue’s muddled return to England.  When Sue falls in love with Quiz, a young literary professor things become complicated.

“It wasn’t that I forgot about Joe:  he was in my thoughts at the very same moment as it all happened.  But Quiz made it sound like kissing was something we should be doing – if only we were brave enough to express our true feelings.  If only we were outrageous enough to live – and I do so want to do that.  So it was shamingly easy to persuade myself.  It didn’t mean I loved Joe any less, I love Joe terribly, it just meant that I loved Quiz too and I couldn’t help it and I do so know that one day we will all be dead.  Maybe it’s just all excuses.  But Quiz makes being selfish sound reasonable, like its thoughtful even and somehow more…..honest”

This is a lively story, I didn’t laugh or ‘feel’ quite as much as I might have hoped, but I mostly enjoyed it.  Although I must confess to being more interested in Sue than London Taylor and consequently rushing through some of the lengthy passages from ‘For the Concern of the Rich and the Poor’.

A perfectly pleasant summer read that made me smile rather than laugh.

Image Changing pages

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