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Rhododendron Pie (1930)

by Margery Sharp

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816333,123 (3.77)37
It was indeed very difficult for the Laventie children not to be a little priggish. Ann Laventie, the youngest of three children in a long line of anti-social Sussex gentry, doesn't quite fit the mould of her intellectual, elegant, ultra-modern siblings Dick, an artist, and Elizabeth, a high-brow writer. Their father is scholarly and just wealthy enough to focus all his attention on reading and other highbrow pursuits. Ann, on the other hand, worries about being plump, is what might be called a 'people person,' and appreciates the simpler pleasures. As the young Laventies spend more and more of their time in the glitter of London, their differences grow more pronounced, and when Ann returns home with an unsuitably ordinary fianc©♭, this dazzling, witty battle of the brows reaches its exhilarating climax. Rhododendron Pie, one of Margery Sharp's rarest and most sought-after novels, was her debut, reportedly written in one month while Sharp worked as a typist and shared a flat in Paddington with two other girls. But it already shows all the charm, humour, and sophistication that characterizes Sharp's beloved later work. First published in 1930, it has, inexplicably, never been reprinted. Until now. This new edition features an introduction by twentieth-century women's historian Elizabeth Crawford.… (more)
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This is the story of Ann Laventie, caught up in her bohemian family's cleverness and determined to fit in. This is Ann's coming of age. She constantly compares herself to her siblings Elizabeth, an essay writer, and Dick, an artist, and to their father, Richard Laventie, an intellectual. But it will take Ann time to realise they're full of themselves, snooty and not as talented as she originally thought.
https://readableword.wordpress.com/2022/04/09/rhododendron-pie-by-margery-sharp/
( )
  Nicky24 | May 3, 2024 |
BIBLIOGRAPHIC DETAILS
(Print: 1930; Chato & Windus; 358 pages.)
Digital: 1/4/2021; 9781913527624; Dean Street Press; 225 pages.
(Audio: No)
(Film: No).

CHARACTERS:
Miss Ann Laventie – Begins with her 10th birthday and then progresses into her young adult years.
Elizabeth Laventie – Ann’s sister
Dick Laventie – Ann’s brother
Mr. and Mrs. Richard Laventie – Ann’s parents
Martha – Parlourmaid to the Laventies
Gayfords – Family that lives next door to the Laventies
Gilbert Croy – A house guest

SUMMARY/ EVALUATION:
After reading two of Margery Sharps later books I decided it was time to start with the first, this one. Not finding it through any of my library Overdrive subscriptions, I purchased it, quite inexpensively, from Kindle.
A quaint and charming story of a young lady growing up; her family, her neighbors, her interests, . . . well, in short, her life.

AUTHOR:
(Clara Margery Melita Sharp) Margery Sharp (1/25/1905-3/14/1991). Margery was the youngest daughter of Henry Sharp and Clara Ellen. According to the book’s preface, even as Margery Sharp’s first work, this novel was highly sought-after. It was “reportedly written in one month.”

DEDICATION:
"To My Mother"

GENRE:
Fiction

LOCATIONS:
Sussex, England; London

TIME FRAME
1930’s

SUBJECTS:
Family relationships, neighbors, matrimony

SAMPLE QUOTATION:
From Chapter 6
“The British film industry, however, seemed to have forgotten all about Mr. Croy, for he stayed on at Whitenights with every appearance of content. And the Laventies were glad to keep him, since he proved an admirable companion, talking intelligently and unhesitatingly on every polite subject. He sat to Dick for an Egyptian looking profile called ‘Resurection,’ shared Mr. Laventie’s Restoration enthusiasms, and provided Elizabeth with material for an exceptionally brilliant essay on lyricism in photography. He also managed to spend a considerable amount of time talking to Ann in the orchard.
This she found more agreeable than she would have thought possible after that first unfortunate morning in the window-seat. Without exactly intending to she fell back shamelessly on her dreamy eye-brows, drifting off into a reverie whenever the conversation became too much for her: and then they would sit in silence under the apple-trees until some slight natural incident (the fall of a pigeon’s feather or passage of a bumble bee) started a fresh train of comment and allusion. Or until Elizabeth came out for rest and stimulus after a morning at her essays.”

RATING: 4 stars. I enjoyed it for it’s light mood and the writing.

STARTED-FINISHED
4/12/21 – 6/14/2021
( )
  TraSea | Apr 29, 2024 |
The 1930 novel Rhododendron Pie was Margery Sharp’s first published novel and I believe is a very good indication of the style that she continued to develop over her writing career. It is a witty and insightful satire on the coming of age of one young woman, Ann Leventie, who doesn’t quite fit into her family. The Laventies are intellectual, snobbish, rather pretentious people, perhaps priggish best describes them. They tend to be tall, slender people with straight dark hair, whereas Ann is somewhat shorter, plump and has light brown, curly hair. But perhaps the biggest difference is that Ann is more down to earth, practical and certainly cares more about other’s feelings than her siblings and father.

Her father is scholarly and just wealthy enough to focus his attention on reading and other high brow pursuits, her brother Dick becomes an artist and sister Elizabeth the writer of elegant essays. Ann, on the other hand, worries about her figure and is what might be called a “people person” who appreciates the simpler pleasures of life. Perhaps the birthday pies sum up the family the best. For their birthdays each child gets a special pie, but instead of a fruit filling, the pie is filled with flowers. Beautiful but inedible. Lovely to look at, but no substance. While Dick and Elizabeth look forward to these elegant pies, Ann dreams of receiving a good old fashioned apple pie. As they grow older, their differences become more obvious but when Ann comes home with an unsuitably ordinary finance, everyone’s true colors are exposed but it is Ann’s mother, the quiet invalid, who surprises everyone with her opinion.

The romance aspect is a minor one as the book is mostly about social standing and the way people view and treat each other. Although at times the author tends to wander from her story and some of her descriptions are a little long, Rhododendron Pie is perceptive and clever, a very good first novel that highlights Margery Sharpe’s writing and tongue-in-cheek style. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Nov 21, 2022 |
Published(my edition, anyway) in 1930, this book is like a slice of the past, freezing in time the antiquated traditions, positions, and opinions of that time. It's almost like an inverted Pride and Prejudice, where Wickham becomes Darcy and Darcy becomes Wickham and Elizabeth(Ann) is okay leaving her social sphere to enjoy the comforts provided by six pounds/week. I wasn't quite sure what to make of the tone, mirroring Ann's muddled thoughts about her own position, until that delicious little paragraph at the end of the second to last chapter that finally exposed the whole thing as a comedy of almost Austenien genius.

John's page of monologue about New Zealand, adventure, and bank clerks lay heavier on the heart that it was originally meant to, I suppose. Because, you see, we know something that Sharp didn't in 1930---that things were happening in Germany that would soon overshadow the world.

I gather that, somewhere, there is an edition that has removed the offending line that was included in mine. Or so I would hope because I was definitely not expecting it here and the people that read it, and, by so liking it, encouraged me to read it, are usually really good at catching those things. But, for that reason, I'm not that keen on the story. It tainted the rest of it.

It does beg the question though: Even if the line had been eliminated in the version that I had, should it matter? Because the spot existed in the shirt and was snipped out, is the shirt forever ruined, or has it been saved? Opinions on the former are welcome. ( )
  OutOfTheBestBooks | Sep 24, 2021 |
This is the desperately rare, long out of print, first Margery Sharp novel. It is the book that I described as ‘the book that I had thought would always be just out of reach’and I know that I was wonderfully lucky to spot and secure a copy that was not quite so expensive as some of the copies you might see online.

I have to tell you that it is a joy to read, and that it so very deserving of being sent back out into the world again, to delight another generation of readers.

It tells the story of Ann Laventie, the youngest of three children of a family of aesthetes and snobs. Ann is a little different from the rest of her family, because though she loves them dearly and shares their love of art and beauty she is not a snob, and she has a strong practical streak and a lively curiosity about the world.

That is beautifully illuminated by the much-loved family tradition of floral pies. It began when six years-old Elizabeth Laventie, Ann’s elder sister, wept over the cherry pie that she had requested for her birthday.

It transpired that she had expected the pie to contain not cherries, but heliotropes. However the confusion has arisen in her infant mine it was now firmly rooted. The fact that flowers were inedible did not concern her; Elizabeth was determined that her birthday pie should contain them or nothing, It was at such a moment that Mr. Laventie’s quality showed itself. With instant resource he swiftly removed the crust, disposed of the cherries in a convenient parterre, and crammed the dish with a mass of sweet-smelling heliotrope. His daughter was bidden try again, and this time true delight lay under the pie crust.

Ann saw the beauty of her own birthday pie, a rhododendron pie, but she knew that something was missing.

Every year she had hoped against hope, and every year the lovely inedible petals have cheated her. For she has a fundamental, instinctive conviction that they are out of place, Flowers are beautiful in gardens … and in houses, of course … but in a pie you want fruit. Apples. Hot and fragrant and faintly pink, with lots of juice … and cloves. She wished there had been apples in her pie.

When Elizabeth grew up she became a writer, when brother Dick grew up he became a sculptor, but Ann couldn’t identify a particular talent of her own or a career that she could pursue. She did have a talent for friendship, she was as at home with the down-to-earth Gayford family who lived next door as she was with her siblings’ bohemian circle of friends, and she had a suitor who she knew her parents would love as a son-in-law and another one she knew they would not understand at all.

Margery Sharp tells Ann’s story with warmth, wit and wisdom; and that story is both of its age and written to resonante long into the future. In time, Ann finds that she has a good idea what she wants, but she knows that she cannot please all of the people she loves, and that maybe there is no path through life open to her that will give her everything she would like.

‘What I want,’ continued Ann recklessly, ‘is a nice wedding in the village church, with a white frock and orange blossom and lots of flowers and ‘The Voice that Breathed’ and two bridesmaids in cyclamen pink and rose petals afterwards and a reception in the drawing-room with a string quartet playing selections from Gilbert and Sullivan. In June. And a honeymoon in the Italian Lakes.

‘Where does Gilbert come in?’

‘He doesn’t. And I want to live in a house, not a flat, even if it’s only a little one in a suburb where there’s no-one amusing, with a back garden to dig in. And have bird pattern chintzes in the drawing-room and cold supper on Sundays because the maid’s out. I shall probably,’ finished Ann defiantly, ‘take a stall at the church bazaar.’


I just had to love Ann, I felt such empathy and understanding, and I would have loved to be her friend. Not that she lacked for friends, and her story had a wonderful and diverse cast, with every character perfectly realised. They lived and breathed; I believe that they had many more tales that could have been told and perspectives that could have been used; and I could easily believe that some of the bohemian Londoners were around for the London scenes in 'The Flowering Thorn' and that the last of the 'Four Gardens' might be nearby.

It was lovely to spot themes and ideas that would echo through Margery Sharp’s novels. Many of those novels are more accomplished than this one, but ‘Rhododendron Pie’ is a particularly accomplished first novel. There could have been a little more subtlety, a little more sophistication in the way that Ann determined her future ; but this book is beautifully constructed, the quality of the writing and the use of language is sublime, and that carries the day.

What I think really makes this story sing, what makes it distinctive in the company of Margery Sharp’s other books, is the depth of feeling in its telling; and I have to think that it must have been particularly close to her heart.

The final scene is a master-stroke; and the book as a whole is a delight. ( )
4 vote BeyondEdenRock | Dec 6, 2019 |
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The Laventies' garden was unusual in Sussex, being planted French-fashion with green-barked limes, eight rows of eight trees at a distance of six feet.
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It was indeed very difficult for the Laventie children not to be a little priggish. Ann Laventie, the youngest of three children in a long line of anti-social Sussex gentry, doesn't quite fit the mould of her intellectual, elegant, ultra-modern siblings Dick, an artist, and Elizabeth, a high-brow writer. Their father is scholarly and just wealthy enough to focus all his attention on reading and other highbrow pursuits. Ann, on the other hand, worries about being plump, is what might be called a 'people person,' and appreciates the simpler pleasures. As the young Laventies spend more and more of their time in the glitter of London, their differences grow more pronounced, and when Ann returns home with an unsuitably ordinary fianc©♭, this dazzling, witty battle of the brows reaches its exhilarating climax. Rhododendron Pie, one of Margery Sharp's rarest and most sought-after novels, was her debut, reportedly written in one month while Sharp worked as a typist and shared a flat in Paddington with two other girls. But it already shows all the charm, humour, and sophistication that characterizes Sharp's beloved later work. First published in 1930, it has, inexplicably, never been reprinted. Until now. This new edition features an introduction by twentieth-century women's historian Elizabeth Crawford.

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