The Girl Booker

The Girl Booker

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Star Light, Star Bright

"He owned solid things: houses, ship-loads of half-spoiled fruit, dilapidated little shops, collections of other people's battered and abandoned possessions. He could never wring from them enough money to buy the laughter and the security his mother had denied him when he was a child".

If you like that sentence then you really should take yourself off and get your hands on some Stella Gibbons to read. She has such a subtle, cheeky, cut-through way with words that are often lovely and lilting at the same time. After having read Starlight (quoted above) I can understand both why Gibbons had so many novels published, and also why all of her books apart from Cold Comfort Farm went out of print for several decades. I loved reading Starlight , and it was full of little gems where the words are put together so beautifully you stop reading to bask in them for a moment. But I found the ending deeply unsatisfying. Some of the characters had very neat and tidy endings, while for others there was no ending at all, and it felt too uneven. In trying to puzzle out the ending I realised other holes in the story-telling that just did not hold up to scrutiny.

I have now read a few of Gibbons' novels and they are a mixed bag. I am going to read as many of them as I can get my hands on because I love her approach to words, and because Cold Comfort Farm and Westwood are two supremely wonderful books. I wouldn't tell people not to read Starlight, but to be aware of what to expect. I would give the first three quarters of the book 4.5 stars, and the final quarter 3 stars. In conclusion: not too shabby, 3 and a bit stars.

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