The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik
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July 1, 2018

Miss Folley



      The next day, there was more church in the morning. Social church, with hats. Richard was left with Miss Folley, whom he watched with a wary eye, tried to avoid. She kept offering him things -- a mince pie, a glass of her sloe gin, a dish of marzipan strawberries.
      He did not quite like to get out his briefcase and set to work again on Christmas morning, so he looked about for a book to read. No newspapers:  no market prices. Mrs. Secretan was reading Elizabeth and her German Garden  -- 'for the umpteenth time,' she said. 'Such a beautiful book. How much one would have liked to have known her.'
      Richard thought that for his part we would have tried to run a mile in the other direction, if such a risk had risen. He had 'picked' at the book once, as he put it; and had been vaguely repelled, but because he could never justify his reactions to art and literature, he kept quiet. I'm a businessman, he  thought. This bolstering-up reflection he also kept to himself. ...
     Ageing ladies' books filled the shelves -- My Life as This or That -- he skipped the title  -- The English Rock Garden, Rosemary for Remembrance, Down the Garden Path, The Herbaceous Border Under Three Reigns.
       'If you're looking for a nice, pulling book,' Miss Folley began, coming in to bully him with Elvas plums.
       'No, no,'' he said, straightening quickly, backing away from the shelves. 'I never read.'
       He would have his little joke, she thought; and laughed accordingly.
       'I-literally-never-read,' he insisted.  She laughed so much at this that she stood there with the dish of plums in her hand, and held a handkerchief to her eyes with the other 'Oh dear! Oh, dear!' she laughingly gasped. 'I had a gentleman friend one, who had a sense of humour like yours. I was always in fits. Malcolm,' she added thoughtfully, her eyes suddenly clouded, as if with reminiscence or or invention. 'That was up in Warwickshire,' she went on, with an air of explaining everything. She looked down at the dish of plums, and advanced toward him. ...     
from The Soul of Kindess, by Elizabeth Taylor

I've fallen a little bit behind with reading this,in honor of the author's birthday on Wednesday, but right now I am so grateful that it is too hot out to do anything but read.  All of the characters are wonderfully drawn, but Miss Folley!  She is my absolute favorite.  She's Flora's mother's cook and housekeeper, and she's like someone out of Angela Thirkell, but insane.  There's a scene before this one where she's reading some old love letters to her employer {but -- gasp -- they're from Clive! not Malcolm!} which is absolutely priceless.  I'm only about halfway through the book, but I hope there's a lot more of her in it.

 I hope what you're reading today is giving you as much joy.

2 comments:

Terra said...

This books sounds charming and I think I would like it. Can you believe I have not read any books by Elizabeth Taylor? I am a fan of Angela Thirkell's novels.

Karen K. said...

Elizabeth Taylor has been hit or miss for me (LOVED Mrs. Palfrey but just was bored by A Game of Hide and Seek and found Angel to be pretty repellent.) This, however, sounds like exactly my sort of book so I must investigate further!

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