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Our Spoons Came from Woolworths (1950)

by Barbara Comyns

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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5932628,928 (3.87)169
Pretty, unworldly Sophia is twenty-one years old and hastily married to a young painter called Charles. An artist's model with an eccentric collection of pets, she is ill-equipped to cope with the bohemian London of the 1930s, where poverty, babies (however much loved) and husband conspire to torment her. Hoping to add some spice to her life, Sophia takes up with Peregrine, a dismal, ageing critic, and comes to regret her marriage - and her affair. But in this case virtue is more than its own reward, for repentance brings an abrupt end to the cycle of unsold pictures, unpaid bills and unwashed dishes . . .… (more)
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» See also 169 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
This writer, a Brit, is a new one for me, as is the case with many of us as our new feminist awareness is putting many literary women back in the forefront of a domain that previously ignored them. Our primary character herein, one Sophia, is a naive but apparently attractive young woman (I say this as she is constantly being 'rescued' by reprobates) who finds herself enmeshed in a horrific mariage, terrible in-laws and a laggard husband (aren't they all -- and let's not forget the 'manolescent' boyfriends of today, a plague upon the land!), a pregnancy and delivery from hell (thirties style!), and the class-ridden society of class conscious pre-war Britain. I intend to read more works from B Comyns, a true luminary! ( )
  larryking1 | Nov 2, 2019 |
In this mostly depressing novel, a young woman recounts her early adulthood. She married way too young and had a baby right away, lived in poverty, gets ill, husband is unsupportive and leaves her, etc. It was sort of like a first person Hardy novel set in the mid-1900s.

I liked it, but not as much as the other Comyns novel I've read (The Vet's Daughter). I mainly liked the voice of the narrator in this one. She is very straightforward and matter of fact about all the terrible things happening to her. I actually found it sort of funny at times. ( )
  japaul22 | Jul 4, 2019 |
Interesting. Author Barbara Comyns writes a semi-autobiographical novel set in the 1930s (she cautions that nothing in the book is true except a few chapters; I won’t mention what those are about to avoid spoilers). The protagonist, Sophia, marries in haste and repents at leisure; she’s breathtakingly naïve, and her husband is a callous jerk – but can be slightly forgiven because he’s also breathtakingly naïve. The couple have no idea of how to support themselves, and unfortunately don’t seem to realize how reproduction works (Sophia volunteers to the reader that she thought if you firmly believed you wouldn’t get pregnant, you wouldn’t. This turns out not to be the case). The main charm of the book is the writing style; simple declarative sentences narrating their descent into genteel poverty – and continuing into pretty ungenteel poverty – somehow turns the commonplace into grand tragedy. Still, Sophia manages to muddle through being unable to afford clothes and furniture and heat and food and medical care and ends up reminding the reader that simple joys – enough to eat, a new pair of shoes, a pet – are the best. ( )
2 vote setnahkt | Mar 21, 2019 |
A vivid, melancholy and poetic novel about poverty in mid-20th century England by a woman who is quickly becoming my favourite new writer (new to me, I mean). This is pitched somewhere between the quirky, self-conscious voice of a Muriel Spark protagonist and the depictions of working class life from one of Orwell's social novels, maybe Keep The Aspidistra Flying or one of those. Comyns should be much better-known than she is. ( )
  haarpsichord | Nov 5, 2018 |
As a young and terribly naive girl, Sophia Fairclough enters into a disastrous first marriage and tries to raise her young family despite crushing poverty and an irresponsible, disinterested artist for a husband. Sophie's narrative voice is so light and trips along so breathlessly that the reader almost overlooks the very real hardships she endures. Her naivete can be funny--she believes birth control is just thinking very hard that you don't want to become pregnant--but she shows great resourcefulness when pretty much everyone in her life lets her down, and her insights into the plight of women are quite sharp. This is a quick and easy but affecting read, only marred by a very rushed and rather fairy-tale-like ending, and I think it gives a good sense of what the Great Depression was like to live through. ( )
  sturlington | Jul 16, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Comyns, Barbaraprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brayfield, CeliaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gould, EmilyIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
O'Farrell, MaggieIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Barbara Comyns wrote first as a child, to amuse herself, her vibrant and curious imagination overflowing the edges of reality.
I told Helen my story and she went home and cried.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Pretty, unworldly Sophia is twenty-one years old and hastily married to a young painter called Charles. An artist's model with an eccentric collection of pets, she is ill-equipped to cope with the bohemian London of the 1930s, where poverty, babies (however much loved) and husband conspire to torment her. Hoping to add some spice to her life, Sophia takes up with Peregrine, a dismal, ageing critic, and comes to regret her marriage - and her affair. But in this case virtue is more than its own reward, for repentance brings an abrupt end to the cycle of unsold pictures, unpaid bills and unwashed dishes . . .

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"Eventually, we bought a mattress and were able to tuck the clothes in the and the sheets were washed and didn't smell and we became proper married people."  Sophia is twenty-one years old, she carries a newt around in her pocket and marries - in haste - a young artist called Charles.  Swept into bohemian London of the thirties, Sophia is ill-equipped to cope: poverty, babies (however much loved) - and her husband - conspire to torment her.  Hoping to add some spice to her life, Sophie takes up with the dismal, aging art critic, Peregrine and learns to repent her marriage - and affair - at leisure.  Repentance brings an abrupt end to a life of unpaid bills, unsold pictures and unwashed crockery, plus the hope of joys in store:  this novel has a very happy ending...  Barbara Comyns was born at Bidford-on-Avon and now lives in Richmond, Surrey.  The author of eight wonderfully eccentric novels, this, her second, first published 1950, takes a tragic-comic look at artistic life in London before the Second World War through the child-like eyes of the endearing, ebullient Sophia.  (From the back cover of Virago Press's edition published in 1983.  Barbara Comyns died in 1992.)
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