Archive for October 17th, 2007

Beautiful Lady by Patrick Read

October 17, 2007

As most people know, Patrick Read is one of the pen names of Michael Allen, otherwise known as the Grumpy Old bookman. (What would his many blog viewers do without his witty comments — a smorgesbord of literary delights and criticisms!)

The banner on the book describes the story as “A gripping new thriller set in Wartime England.”

In all honesty I cannot say that I found the book ‘gripping’ BUT when my husband said, on reading the final page, “Very good!”
I had to agree with him. (Please note, it is very rare for my husband to spontaneously bestow such an accolade, not even on best selling authors.) Having said that, we did find the book a true page turner.

Well, Patrick Read seems to have received at least four jolly good reviews by known reviewers, so this can be taken as purely my own non-professional view of what I heard as the book was read to me — minus most of the swear words we NEVER heard when we were young! (I have to add that I will interrupt and make comments, much to my hubby’s displeasure!)

The portraits of the historical figures — especially those connected with royalty, we found fascinating. The manner in which these figures were woven into an exciting story of which the conclusion was only too obvious (after all the central figure is sitting on the throne) has been very cleverly done. These flesh and blood characters are not just ghosts of the past but alive on the pages, speaking and acting in ways we may have suspected but only vaguely imagined possible.

I suppose I never did like Wallis Simpson, (vulgar woman) and I always thought the Duke of Windsor a playboy and disloyal to his country, so I already had a mindset ripe for the story as it unfolded. But ALL of the characters are three-dimentional in every respect. The kidnapping of a young royal personage is a feasible story-line and the realistic settings of war-torn Britain add an element of horror as the intrepid Jane Padget goes about her self-appointed task of doing what ‘all the King’s horses and all the King’s men’ (so to speak) had failed to do — rescue the Princess before…

Maybe I found Jane a little too sexually confident and her new friend Seymour a little too naive (and a bit of an idiot) but the characters worked well in the story. The sexual activities of Wallace were a bit steeped up and steamy but added a little zest to prevent flagging! (In more ways than one!)

The portraits and activities of all the historical personages we found fascinating, and certainly held our interest.

One criticism I would make with this tale, and many others when dealing with wartime Britain, is the prominence given to Spam. Even the suggestion that some folk might only have had a boiled egg for their Sunday lunch is stretching things. If I recall, Spam was an American product and was ‘on coupons’ or maybe it arrived in food parcels from the USA, or given as gifts by the Yanks. Apart from the weekly small ration of meat and bacon, there were a great variety of offal foods — cooked or raw — that could be bought at the butchers (even if they ran out because of folk queuing). Nothing of the animal was wasted. Poultry, rabbits and game were also available according to one’s pocket and supply. Fish too could be queued for. But eggs were rationed — one fresh egg per week unless you kept your own chickens.

But this is a minor thing that most readers would not even notice.

A jolly good read that had us discussing together, not only the book but a few wartime memories. And that can’t be bad!