Friday, August 15, 2014

Friday Reading Assignment: Something in Disguise

More Elizabeth Jane Howard!  (She of the fantastic Cazalet Chronicles.)  I think Something in Disguise is my favorite, so far, of all of her non-Cazalet novels.  It's set in the mid-sixties, in London.  Elizabeth an Oliver are siblings, and their mother, May, married Herbert after the death of Elizabeth and Oliver's father.  Herbert has a daughter, Alice, from his first marriage.

I don't usually think of Elizabeth Jane Howard as a funny writer, but this book is funny, in a muted way.  The novel opens with Oliver telling Elizabeth that she looks like an "elongated Shirley Temple" in her bridesmaid dress.  Their step-sister Alice is about to marry a crashing bore with an appalling family.  After the wedding Oliver and Elizabeth scamper off to London and live like hipsters, while May becomes involved with "the League" which is suspiciously akin to a cult.  Alice is miserable and Herbert is a stereotypical xenophobic boor.  There's also Claude, Alice's cat.  I love it when animals in novels are developed characters, and Claude makes only a few appearances, but he steals the scene every time.

There is some pleasing plot tightness.  Why is May so ill?  Is the League slowly poisoning her while bullying her to leave them her house in their will?  Will Oliver ever find a source of income?  Will Alice and Claude ever be reunited? If you have read the Cazalet Chronicles and want more of EJH, Something in Disguise is the perfect choice.  It's lighter  than The Sea Change and funnier than After Julius.

5 comments:

  1. What a great review! "Funny, in a muted way ..." Great description. I've noted the title to check it out. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! Her books are great. You'd probably really like her series about the Cazalet family too.

      Delete
  2. She is a SLY writer, as so many of those British folks are. I bet I'd love this one. I plan to read everything she ever wrote...just as soon as I finish reading everything written by P. G. Wodehouse.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. P. G. Wodehouse! I am saving him for a rainy day!

      Delete
  3. Now that I've dipped my toe in with Howard's End, maybe I'll check her out. Currently I'm reading "Nicolas and Alexandra" about the doomed Russian royal family. Definitely not light reading.

    ReplyDelete