Crumpets and Crotchets

The reader knows from the outset of Miss Read's 30th anachronistic novel of village gossip that the "affairs" at Thrush Green are not of the illicit variety. This latest amble into the not-so-lively lives of the middle-aged people last encountered in Read's Gossip Prom Thrush Green (1981) presents a world dominated by old-fashioned simplicity and innocence. In a world drawn with the aid of lilac-colored glasses, where crankiness and pettiness are the major foibles, many of the characters in the novel suggest the life and originality of the gift-book illustrations that decorate its pages. But granting the book these mostly intentional and traditionally comic limitations, her fans will encounter delightfully familiar characters whose uneventful lives are sketched with enough wit and insight to leave them breathless for the latest gossip.

The book's moral center is the humble and kindly Reverend Charles Henstock and his wife Dimity, who have recently replaced the Anthony Bulls as stewards of the four neighboring parishes that include Thrush Green. The preoccupations and predicaments of Charles's parishioners are various. Ella Bembridge, former housemate of Dimity Henstock, devotes herself to cigarette-rolling and local gossip. The school marms, Misses Fogerty and Watson, dream of a beach retirement but are frustrated by their indispensability to the school. The rich and bossy widow, Mrs. Thurgood, fights...

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