A Musing: The Flowering Thorn

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 I had never heard of the author Margery Sharp or her book The Flowering Thorn before receiving the September/October 2012 issue of Piecework magazine. I love obscure British women authors of the 20th century (Persephone authors, if you will, although Sharp’s books are out of print and would be an excellent candidate for Persephone to reissue in my opinion!) so I immediately tried to find a copy. Despite my used book and two academic library connections, I could not find a copy. Interlibrary loan to the rescue! I finally got my hands on a good old copy from the Wellesley library.

I was thoroughly charmed by this book. Lesley Frewen’s journey from glamourous London “Bright Young Thing” to whole and happy country dweller was one worth reading about. Lesley adopts her aunt’s deceased servant’s 4 year old boy after a particularly disappointing evening out and about. It changes everything, but not how you might expect. The story is told in a way that is both refreshing and unsentimental. The writing is crisp and dryly humorous. The characters keep surprising you.

What does this all have to do with needlework, you ask? Part of Lesley’s change consists of starting to do things herself. In London, she lived in a “service apartment” – a glamourous little residence where everything was done for you, and you could flit in and out at will. She was just able to afford this with the money left to her by her parents. When she moves to the country, that same lifestyle does not work. Can you believe that in the beginning, she was getting her meals delivered to the country already cooked and plated by Fortnum and Mason?! She soon realizes how much farther her money could go by cooking, getting some fabric for new curtains to brighten the drab cottage, all the way to peeling off the layers of faded wallpaper to expose gorgeous oak beams, restoring the cottage to its true, original beauty. We find her mending, planting gardens, and knitting Chanel designed sweaters! In fact, the accompanying project in Piecework is a Chanel inspired cardigan to knit called the Lesley sweater. Delightful.

I am so glad to have been introduced to Margery Sharp! I want to try and dig up her other books — I know I’ll love them. Persephone, if you’re listening — why not add Margery Sharp to your list of authors?

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9 comments

  1. FleurFisher

    It’s lovely to find somebody else faliing in love with Margery Sharp’s writing. I discovered her through the one Virago reprint and have been ordering her books up through the library and picking up my own copies where I could ever since.

    I heard, through a reliable source in the LibraryThing Virago group, that Nicola Beauman doesn’t particularly like her writing, so Persephone editions are unlikely, but there are other possibilities. Margery Sharp would sit well alongside Stella Gibbons in the vintage list, or Dodie Smith in the Corsair list …

    • jackiemania

      Fleur, what Sharp book would you recommend to read next? I have an interlibrary loan service at work – the librarian is super 🙂

      That’s too bad about Persephone. Nevertheless, I think next month’s spending money is going to a Persephone order! They have SO much I want to read.

      • FleurFisher

        The Martha books are probably my favourite (The Eye of Love, Martha in Paris and Martha, Eric & George). I had an email from someone who knew Margery Sharp after I wrote about one of them, and she said that Margery Sharp was lovely, and that she had based Martha on herself. The Faithful Servants is lovely too, if a quiet, rather old-fashioned story appeals. But there are lots I haven’t read, and from what I’m told no real duds, so I’d say go for the title that catches your eye.

  2. genusrosa

    Loved your review of The Flowering Thorn! I agree about wishing for reprints…I have tried to get Persephone Books interested but they direct me to Virago…meanwhile, I am getting my Margery pages back up and running with more notes and commentary on her works. Hopefully between all of us, we can have a share in bringing some of her works back into print! By the way, I also loved your reference about Lesley Frewen ordering her food from Fortnum and Mason…oh the times…and then later her country housekeeper hands out the dishes to the neighborhood. Margery Sharp is so funny!

  3. Pingback: Preparing a Party for Margery « Fleur in her World

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