Published only 3 years after her debut, Cold Comfort Farm, this is a thinly-veiled autobiographical novel which is set in Enbury (i.e. Hampstead) in London. I’ve read most of her work now and this one is low in my ranking, but I do appreciate how Gibbons used the novel to explore her feelings about her turbulent early years.
The story follows young adults Sophia, Harry and Francis after the deaths of their parents. Their doctor father was an alcoholic and womaniser who made their home life a misery, while their mother was calm and mild. They seem to blame their father for her early death. While waiting for the doctor’s surgery to be sold, the siblings move into a little old cottage on Enbury Heath and try to avoid the well-intentioned meddling of their aunts and uncles. Sophia is working for a newspaper, while Harry is an actor and Francis leaves school for office life. At first, they enjoy living in the cottage, but the housekeeping and managing servants falls to Sophia, who is also worried about the partying her brothers get up to. She dreads them following in their father’s footsteps.
Having read this book and then about Stella Gibbons’ life, this is so close to reality that it doesn’t seem much like fiction. The writing is interesting at times, describing what it was like to be in your late teens and early twenties in 1930s London, for example. However, there is only a vague plot and the ending is very weak. Probably one for the Stella Gibbons completists.
First published in 1935, this edition is by Vintage, 2021.
6 thoughts on “Review of ‘Enbury Heath’ by Stella Gibbons”
Great review ☺️. Sounds interesting, a shame it wasn’t as good as you’d hoped. I’ve never read a book by her before.
Thanks! 🙂 It was an ebook from the library. Generally I really like her writing style, that’s why I’ve read so many of her books!
Sounds like it disappointed you and for a good reason. There seems to be some good material to work with but ultimately not enough to make this one stand out. Great honest thoughts as usual. 🙂
Thanks 🙂 I find autobiographical novels problematic sometimes, they can be interesting to learn more about the author but not fictional enough for a decent story.
There is much less plot to this one, however I really enjoyed the relationship between the siblings and the portrait of those annoying relatives.
Yes that was one of the best things about the book, I was comparing it unfavourably to her later work but you’re right about that 🙂