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This beautifully poised novel chronicles the extraordinary upbringing and early adulthood of Marjory Bell in the 1920s and ‘30s, in a rambling South London house teeming with eccentric uncles and aunts and their hangers-on. By turns harsh, kind, immoral, hypocritical, hilarious and spiteful, they are all dominated by the baleful presence of Marjory’s unrepentantly Victorian grandmother.
Marjory is motherless, her father a remote, weekend visitor to ’Gran’s house’, where Marjory belongs, but is isolated. Gran would crush her individuality, or crush her entirely: and Marjory has to bring all her intelligence, tenacity and humour into play to survive. As she remarks at one point, ‘Some of the animals in our family are nicer than some of the people.’ But she does survive. Glimpses of her adult life tell us the price she pays—but how she also never loses her wit, integrity and spark…[more]