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.