Haymon, author - under the S.T. Haymon byline - of superior mystery
fiction (Stately Homicide, etc.), offers a wry, full-textured
close-up of one aspect of her 1920's childhood: an
upper-middle-class girl's unusually extensive exposure to How the
Other Half Lives. For young Sylvie, the link to the Other Half was
possessive nursemaid Maud Fenner, tall and gaunt, only a teen-ager
herself - yet a severe master of "Machiavellian machinations."
Intensely attached to Maud, Sylvie would sometimes join her on her
day off; soon, sleeping on the sofa, she was a frequent, long-term
house-guest. And so began her fascinated involvement with the
entire Fenner family, in their Norfolk village hovel opposite the
Cross Keys pub. Here, where "dirty" was not a word with moral
connotations but merely "a style of interior decoration," Sylvie
got a vivid look at poverty and privies and water from pumps.
Family outings were all-day excursions into menial labor:
"spud-lifting," strawberry-picking, eel-catching, chicken-plucking.
("At first the sight of the dead heads, the filmed eyes, floppy
combs and sad, naked necks was more than I could stomach, and I was
quietly sick under the table, taking care that none of the vomit
got on to the chicken I was currently working on.") The company,
too, was an eye-opener for Sylvie. Maud's brother Tom was a sweet,
addled casualty of the Great War; sister Ellie was a great lump
with grand delusions of glamour. Sylvie's favorite playmate - until
their disturbing falling-out - was "gypsy gal" Nellie Smith, a
child-abuse victim and ruthless entrepreneur. And, above all, there
was the Fenners' eccentric neighbor "Chicken" - a wastrel, a thief
(with Sylvie as unwitting accomplice), a charismatic embodiment of
"laughing lawlessness" and quixotic scheming: when not seducing
village girls or stealing silver teapots, he could be found
building an impossibly large "ark" on his tiny premises. The
central theme here - a sheltered child's opening-up to (and embrace
of) grittier folk - is a very familiar one; Haymon's treatment -
stronger on rich detailing than on overall shape - would have
benefited from some trimming and compression. Still, nicely
counterpointed by one Wonderland-ish episode in upper-class
surroundings (a mad ride with rich, dotty May Bowden and her surly
chauffeur), these evocations of culture-clash and coming-of-age are
sure to engage Anglophiles with the mix of crisp intelligence and
knees-up earthiness. (Kirkus Reviews)
Is the information for this product incomplete, wrong or inappropriate?
Let us know about it.
Does this product have an incorrect or missing image?
Send us a new image.
Is this product missing categories?
Add more categories.
Review This Product
No reviews yet - be the first to create one!