Margery Sharp, The Gipsy in the Parlour (1953)
Hooray, it’s Margery Sharp Day! This event, formerly hosted at Fleur in Her World and now at Beyond Eden Rock, introduced me to a delightful but sadly overlooked author of the mid-twentieth century. I’m glad that Jane is once more celebrating Margery Sharp’s birthday by offering this opportunity for us to read her books and share our reviews.
My library, sadly does not have ANY of Sharp’s adult books, but I was able to track down a not-too-garbled e-book of The Gipsy in the Parlour through Open Library. The title, cover, and Victorian setting of this one intrigued me, and I was not disappointed. It was another humorous, breezy read that yet had a serious side in its closely observed characters and emotional insight.
At the beginning we’re introduced to the magnificent Sylvesters, a salt-of-the-earth family of Devonshire farmers and their formidable women who are waiting for a fourth bride to be brought to their home. Also present is our unnamed narrator, a child relation who is there from the city on one of her much-cherished holidays. It’s through her perspective that we see the ensuing events, and Sharp skillfully manages to convey her naively mistaken impressions, though the more jaded eye of adulthood gradually comes to a different interpretation.
As the bride Fanny becomes the “gipsy in the parlour,” putting off her marriage to go into a dramatic decline, and the narrator becomes her “little friend” and ally, the parallel phrase of “cuckoo in the nest” comes to mind. How the parasitical Fanny is eventually dislodged makes for a slyly comical story with a host of marvelous characters. I especially adored the quietly heroic Charlotte, oldest of the Sylvester wives, but you’ll have a wonderful time with all of them.
I also loved how Sharp artfully renders the Devonshire speech patterns without resorting to impenetrable dialect transcription. If you’re doing the Reading England challenge, be sure to consider this one for Devon.
It’s a brief novel that left me certainly wanting to read more Margery Sharp. And so I’m off on the hunt again…and looking forward to seeing what other readers have found this year.
12 thoughts on “Margery Sharp Day: The Gipsy in the Parlour”
I remember loving this when I read it this time last year – thank you for such a lovely reminder. And thank you for tracking down a book to read and being part of the celebrations again.
Always a pleasure, Jane. The Innocents and Britannia Mews are certainly calling strongly to me for next time.
I do love Margery Sharp! I had a copy of The Foolish Gentlewoman around here, but now I don’t see it. I read the Miss Bianca books many times when I was a kid, and my daughter has them now. Bring back Margery Sharp!
Absolutely. I don’t really understand what the problem is. I think Jane said something about the person who has the rights to the booksnot wanting them to be reprinted (?!?)
Well, that would explain it–I went and looked at Amazon, and there’s nothing. No Kindle editions, no Persephone or Bloomsbury, nothing. I thought it was weird.
I’ve noticed that you’re reading some older books lately and I’m curious how you’re finding them! I don’t feel as though I stumble across many older books at my library and I don’t see many reviews. Do you just go out of your way to look up lists of older books? I know I’ve found that’s what I usually have to do to find any but the most popular translated fiction.
Following other blogs has led me to many of the older books I read. I only found out about this particular author’s adult books because of Jane at Beyond Eden Rock, whose enthusiasm was so infectious that I had to hunt some of her books down even though I couldn’t find any in local libraries or bookstores.
Then there are publishers that specifically focus on older titles. Lately I’ve been honored to be sent some review copies of the Slightly Foxed editions, which is a British series of reprints of older memoirs. I see I’ve also reviewed one of the Persephone books (also from the UK), which is another series that seeks to revive neglected classics. It’s an interesting question, I may have to do a discussion about it at some point!
Thanks! I would love to read more about it 🙂
So glad to see another reader discovering Margery Sharp! What a pity, though, that your library doesn’t have any of her books. I too depend on Open Library for my obscure finds, and reading them as PDFs helps avoid the garbled text issue (although it does introduce the other issue of pages sometimes showing up as blank, sigh). Anyways, I’ve yet to read The Gipsy in the Parlour, but so glad you enjoyed it. If you like this style, you might enjoy Susan Ertz’s novels too.
Alas, I don’t have a satisfactory device for reading PDFs — I don’t like prolonged reading on the computer, and my Kobo screen is too small to fit a whole page on at once. So it’s print or EPUB for me. But even so, Open Library is a pretty amazing resource! And now I need to hunt for some Susan Ertz titles…thanks for the recommendation.