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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August 25, 2012

Greenery Street

I would have been drawn to this book anyway, even if it wasn't recommended by a lot of my reading friends, or the first hard-to-find book I was able to easily find through the library of the university where I work, or the first lovely grey Persephone that I've ever read (in that edition). {The fact that my brother-in-law, when he saw it on my coffee table, instantly assumed that I was reading Fifty Shades of Grey only adds to its charms.} After all that, wouldn't it have been awful if I hadn't liked it (as seems to be happening lately?)  Happily, I did.  {I love the look and feel of the Persephone editions, now that I've finally held one, but I like this vintage cover even better.)

Greenery Street is in London, a small street of (I think it's 32) small houses occupied almost entirely by newlyweds.  (There are a few residents who aren't, but when a clergyman and his aged mother come to look at a house, it's clear that Greenery Street isn't looking for more.) The premise of the novel is that Greenery Street exerts a certain pull on them, and holds them there only until a second child is born, when a five-story house managed by a couple of servants begins to feel too small.  {According to the introduction, Denis Mackail -- who is Angela Thirkell's brother -- wrote it soon after he and his family moved away from their first small house in London.} Felicity and Ian Foster move into Number 23, spend too much on renovations, sell Grandmamma's hideous pearls and Ian's father's watch to pay for them (twice), try to make friends with the couple next door (until the neighbors borrow their stepladder, and their fish kettle, and their fruit knives, and forget to return them), are rescued by their brother-in-law Bruce (my favorite character) and rescue his wife Daphne, go away for the weekend in an effort to fire their unsatisfactory housemaid (known as 'the Murderess') by writing her a letter, and generally find themselves being 'romantic, impractical, sensitive, improvident, fundamentally unbusinesslike, and constitutionally incapable of seeing anything as it really is.'

A point has been reached where the touchstone of past experience can be the only test of our sympathy or otherwise with the occupants of Number Twenty-three...
Reading Greenery Street reminded me of the pleasure I get from watching an old black-and-white movie, or of the kind of book that Jane Austen might have written if she was writing 100 years or so later than she did. There are two further books -- Tales from Greenery Street and Ian and Felicity -- that look as though they will be harder to find. But I might...I hope so!

{Speaking of Angela Thirkell, have you read her novels?  I love finding people who have. Years ago I started collecting them, and I think I have all of them (some in old editions, some in more modern paperbacks) now. After I read the first one or two, I started reading (or re-reading) them in order.) But I stopped somewhere in the middle, and rather than try to figure out where my reading ended, I think I'll start again at the beginning. If you'd like to know more about them, visit Claire's blog, The Captive Reader. I'm in a circle of readers who do (you might even be the one who introduced me to it) Or visit it anyway, because it's excellent. :)}


Lisa May said...

I just found a copy of Angela Thirkell's Ankle Deep at a library sale today - one of her books that I've never read (I've only read the Barsetshire books). This book sounds like something I need to look for as well.

Joan Hunter Dunn said...

Oh thank you for bringing back fond memories of reading this on honeymoon. Having read your review I think it's time for a re read.

Karen K. said...

I really liked this book, though I did find it took a serious turn towards the end. I thought it would be very light and fluffy and suddenly it wasn't. Still a great read.

I haven't read Thirkell but I think I picked one up in a stack at the library sale recently. It's towards the middle of the series so I may wait and read some of her earlier books first.

And I think it's hilarious that someone thought you were reading 50 Shades of Grey. Not even close!

Claire (The Captive Reader) said...

This remains one of my very favourite Persephone titles and your lovely review has made me eager to reread it again soon! It is so rare that there are good books about happy marriages, which is part of what I adore about Greenery Street.

Thank you for visiting!

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