Margery Sharp Day: Britannia Mews

Margery Sharp, Britannia Mews (1946)

For the third year in a row, Jane of Beyond Eden Rock is hosting a birthday celebration in honor of the author Margery Sharp, to encourage everyone to read and enjoy her witty, entertaining novels. As Jane notes in her announcement post, for the first time in quite a while many of these are now easier to find (at least for those of us with e-readers) since ten of them have been released as e-books by Open Road Media. I took advantage of this fact to snag the only one that wasn’t already checked out from my library, Britannia Mews. It turned out to be the perfect book to beguile me for a few wintry hours, immersing me in the titular London neighborhood and its colorful cast of characters.

Though not a long novel, it takes us over a span of many years, from the Victorian age to the second world war, following the life of the central character, Adelaide. From a sheltered young girl who defies her parents with an ill-advised elopement, she evolves into a strong woman who has weathered many ups and downs of life, and learned one of its most essential lessons: there’s no use in trying to escape, because you always take yourself with you. With such a theme, it’s appropriate that the book is named after the run-down former stable area that Adelaide’s upwardly mobile family once moved away from, but that drew her back and would not let her go. Accepting her fate leads to some unexpected transformations, both in Adelaide and in the Mews.

The latter part of the book leaves Adelaide in the background to focus on her niece, Dodo, who is coming of age in a very different era leading up to the Second World War. Still, the need to find a sense of integrity is timeless, and Dodo goes through her own process of growth. Along the way she discovers some (but not all) of the secrets that lurk in her family cupboard, as Sharp slyly makes us question which truths really matter.

The pace of the novel never lets up, and the large jumps in time make it feel a bit breathless occasionally. Overall, though, Sharp makes it work, and packs a huge variety of incident and plot, and also of thought and passion and artistry, into a remarkably compact space — not unlike the Mews themselves.

I enjoyed every page of this delightful book, probably my favorite Margery Sharp so far. What’s yours?


16 thoughts on “Margery Sharp Day: Britannia Mews

  1. I bought this after Margery Sharp day last year because I read so many fantastic reviews for it. Unfortunately, it then became buried on my shelves and I forgot about it. I am going to dig it out (and probably find a few other forgotten books in the process) and read it. You make it sound very appealing.


  2. Thank you for joining in the Margery Sharp Day celebrations again. I have yet to read this one, but the idea of a Margery Sharp novel in a Victorian setting is very appealing.


  3. Yours is the third post I’ve seen today on this author and they have all been about such wildly different kinds of narratives. I’ve not read anything by her but these reviews are signalling that she was a very versatile author?


  4. I had considered reading this book for Margery Sharp Day, but decided on The Flowering Thorn instead (which I really enjoyed). I still want to read this one, particularly after reading your review – you’ve made it sound great.


  5. Lovely blog Lory. I read, and loved, Britannia Mews years ago and all but forgot about it (and Margery Sharp) in the years since. Thanks for the reminder! 🙂

    I am brand new to blogging (about ten years late to the party!), and am so excited to be discovering that I’m not the only person in the world who loves early-mid 20th century fiction!


    1. Welcome to the very wonderful world of book blogging! You will find many people with a passion for early to mid 20th century fiction. Margery Sharp is one I discovered through them.


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