My first review of 2013 and a rather delightful, old fashioned book from Clare Mallory an author whose work has totally passed me by though I gather she has a legion of fans. She was a successful writer for girls and between 1947 to 1951 the she published ten novels - pretty good going I think you will agree.
Candy Nevill was never published in the author's lifetime and seems to have been written around 1949-1950 as the manuscript uses her London address where she was living at this time. She was originally from Dunedin in New Zealand and this story takes us back to her childhood home which she uses as a setting.
This is the sort of satisfying children's story which I used to devour when I was about ten or eleven and haunted my children's library. It is very Noel Streatfieldish in style and characterisation, not a bad thing by any means, and the story of this family with its high achievers and its rather dull, untalented younger child ignored by her siblings will be familiar to all of those who have read Ballet Shoes, White Boots, Tennis Shoes etc.
Candy is the youngest of a family of four. She is very ordinary, a bit lazy and totally uninterested in school, doing the bare minimum to get by. Her three brothers and sisters are mildly annoying as they are the leaders of the school, captains of the team and future scholarship candidates who are rather ashamed of their younger sister who they view as letting the side down. Though this always gets my back up I know that they will get their just deserts in the end. Even her parents are dismissive of her and the father, in particular, roused my ire. Wonderful that at the time in which this book was set, the children had a parent who wanted them to have a good education and a career, including the girls, but his careless indifference towards Candy and her striving for his affection and approval made me very cross with him.
But Candy has a talent, she is fascinated by cooking and has a natural flair. Like Petrova in Ballet Shoes the rest of the family think this is a bit infra dig and nothing to boast about, though they are pretty happy to eat the fruits of this interest, and when mother becomes ill, with one of these unspecified maladies which seem to be cured by 'resting' a lot on the sofa, then it is Candy who takes over the cooking and running of the household.
Of course we all know what is going to happen in the end and it does. Candy is recognised by her peers at school and her family as being a person of worth though it takes an outsider in the form of a Mr Baker, a wealthy businessman whose daughter Ianthe befriended Candy and who, in her turn, changes her mind about her as their friendship grows to recognise this and bring it to her family's attention. Candy had turned down the chance of a holiday in America with the Bakers as her mother was ill again and Candy knew she had to stay at home and look after her, a bit of martyrdom that made me seethe, had to remind myself when this book was written, and not take a 2013 look at it, but she gets her reward. She comes home one day to find a package for her, all the way from the USA, and a gramophone recording made by Mr Howard which is played and listened to in total astonishment by her family. This is on the day of the schoool prizegiving at which all her elder siblings have shone....
"I was disappointed when you refused to come to the States with us' Candy blushed as a great gasp arose from the surrounding Nevills. ' It was the kind of prize I had ready for you because you have done something mighty fine for me in the way you have helped and stood by Ianthe. But when you told me about the cooking and cleaning and the telephone, and how important it was for your mother not to be worried, I could see that you already had something even bigger than a trip to America. A loving heart and an unselfish one"
In the package are the latest food gadgets and cookery books sent all the way by America and her story was told to 'the folks over here' and who were interested in 'a little New Zealand girl who can already run a house and is interested in American cookery'.
So a slap in the face for her family which leaves them rather chastened although they have slowly come to value Candy for her integrity and modesty. And finally, Doctor Nevill says something "He saw that his wife was regardinghim purposefully...... 'well we have four triumphs to celebrate - four dazzlingly successful Nevills"
And about bloody time too was my thought.
A charming book, a bit Pollyannish as well as Streatfieldish (oh dear pardon my mangled grammer) and with a curious and nostalgic feel to it which took me right back to my early reading days. I remember I used to read this kind of book and think yes that's me, one day I will show them, I will be brilliant and wonderful too. Wonder what happened.....
This is a welcome reprint and is published by Margin Notes Books who are a really interesting imprint with some lovely titles. I read and reviewed one of their books in 2012, The Whicharts, which starts off in similar style and with similar characters as those of Ballet Shoes, but then goes off in a most unexpected direction and my post on that title is here. I am looking forward to more discoveries from this publisher and am delighted that Candy Nevill is my first Review of 2013.
A good start.