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Patricia Brent, Spinster by Herbert George…
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Patricia Brent, Spinster (1918)

by Herbert George Jenkins

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Funny and enjoyable romance with social commentary--where the "lower class" characters are snobbier than the ricer upper class people. ( )
  jaysbooks | Jan 2, 2016 |
Every now and then a book comes along that is s true surprise and joy. A book you want to tell everyone about, Patricia Brent, Spinster is such a one for me. I really shouldn’t have been surprised that this was such a delight, having first heard about it from Stuckinabook and immediately going in search of a copy of it. I was delighted therefore, when my cheap, ex-library edition from Abebooks turned out to have such an attractive 1970’s dust jacket.
Living the shabbily genteel existence of a paying guest at the Galvin House Residential Hotel, is attractive twenty four year old Patricia Brent. Secretary to a “rising” politician with an absurdly socially ambitious wife, Patricia is lonely and stifled by life. One day Patricia over hears a conversation between a couple of her fellow residents – a spiteful couple of “old cats”, called Miss Wangle and Mrs Mosscrop-Smythe – pitying Patricia’s loneliness, with some relish. Humiliated and furious at what she overhears, in a moment of some madness Patricia announces at dinner that she won’t be in for dinner the next day. Her announcement is greeted by some small amazement, which leads to utter incredulity when Patricia further reveals that she will in fact be dining with her fiancé, a Major recently returned from France, at the Quadrant. Patricia of course will be doing no such thing, for there is no such person.
Horrified by her recklessness and terrified her lie will be revealed to all, Patricia feels she has no option but to dress herself up the next day, and go off in a taxi to the Quadrant.
“As she stood before the mirror, wondering what she should wear for the night’s adventure, she recalled a remark of Miss Wangle’s that no really nice-minded woman ever dressed in black and white unless she had some ulterior motive. Upon the subject of sex-attraction Miss Wangle posed as an authority, and hinted darkly at things that thrilled Miss Sikkum to ecstatic giggles, and Mrs Mosscrop-Smythe to pianissimo moans of anguish that such things could be.
With great deliberation Patricia selected a black charmeuse costume that Miss Wangle had already confided to the whole of Galvin house was at least two and a half inches too short; but as Patricia explained to Mrs Hamilton, if you possess exquisite fitting patent boots that come high up the leg, it’s a sin for the skirt to be too long. She selected a black velvet hat with a large white water-lily on the upper brim”
Her plan to enjoy a dinner she can little afford and return to Galvin House, having for once dined out, apparently with a man, and put an end to any pitying looks and whispers. However what Patricia hadn’t reckoned on, was that Miss Wangle and Mrs Mosscrop-Smythe with one of their other Galvin House acolytes in tow in the form of Mr Bolton – would follow her in their own taxi – arriving at the Quadrant at exactly the same time as her. Walking into the Quadrant grill-room Patricia is desperate for her deception to remain undiscovered, so spotting a young staff officer sitting alone, she hurries up to him and asks him to play along – that she will explain all later. This then, is how Patricia meets Lieut-Col. Lord Peter Bowen, DSO, MC. What ensues from Patricia’s reckless deceit and her involvement of this complete stranger – who is instantly charmed by her – is pure delightful entertainment.
Lord Peter is enchanted by Patricia, Patricia is horrified by her own actions, mortified to be thus compromised, and the whole of Galvin house are agog. With her employer’s salt of the earth father-in-law, Peter’s wise and adorable sister and their good friend Godfrey being drawn into the confusion, along with Patricia’s disapproving aunt, life becomes very complicated very quickly. A collection of wonderfully endearing characters help to move the story along perfectly, as each of them instantly love Patricia and seem to only want the best for her. Buttoned up “sole-surviving” relative Aunt Adelaide who is hilariously interfering and constantly scandalised, and all the old cats at Galvin house are somehow made slightly more bearable by association with all these new fairy-tale friends of Patricia’s.
For anyone who enjoyed Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day and The Making of a Marchioness – this book is a must; it is an effervescent little gem, a feel good little fairy tale to be read with a wry smile. There is much that is unlikely in this little tale – and that is probably why it works so well in a way, of course no- one could possibly act in the way Patricia does and get away with it – her lie would be discovered in ten minutes in real life. So what! It is impossible not to be swept up in the charm and innocent romance of this novel. Patricia Brent, Spinster is yet another book that could so easily have been lost to us, if it weren’t for readers and bloggers sharing their joy in the discovery of it. I would love to see this one being re-issued, and I think I know just the people to do it. However you may be interested to know that there are still affordable second hand copies out there – if I were you I’d get clicking. ( )
1 vote Heaven-Ali | May 11, 2014 |
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"She never has anyone to take her out, and goes nowhere, and yet she can't be more than twenty-seven, and really she's not bad-looking."
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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