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Our Spoons Came From Woolworths: A Virago Modern Classic (VMC) [Paperback]

Barbara Comyns , Maggie O'Farrell
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
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Book Description

4 July 2013 VMC (Book 105)
Pretty, unworldly Sophia is twenty-one years old and hastily married to a young painter called Charles. An artist's model with an eccentric collection of pets, she is ill-equipped to cope with the bohemian London of the 1930s, where poverty, babies (however much loved) and husband conspire to torment her. Hoping to add some spice to her life, Sophia takes up with Peregrine, a dismal, ageing critic, and comes to regret her marriage - and her affair. But in this case virtue is more than its own reward, for repentance brings an abrupt end to the cycle of unsold pictures, unpaid bills and unwashed dishes . . .

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Our Spoons Came From Woolworths: A Virago Modern Classic (VMC) + The Vet's Daughter: A Virago Modern Classic (VMC) + Sisters By A River: A Virago Modern Classic (VMC)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Virago (4 July 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844089274
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844089277
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 17,838 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


The characters seem to exist in a perpetual Mad Hatter's tea-party (KATE SAUNDERS)

This is a marvellous writer (GRAHAM GREENE)

All of her books read as if she wrote them effortlessly (URSULA HOLDEN) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

Barbara Comyns' delightful classic novel set in bohemian 1930s London, with a new introduction by Maggie O'Farrell.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
50 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 21 Feb 2003
I have read this book a number of times since I was a teenager and just reread it in one delightful sitting yesterday. Comyns has a fantastic voice, and its hard to believe that the book isn't biographical. Set in Bohemian London in the Thirties, Sophia is a young woman married to artist Charles. The book sees her through poverty, pregnancy, and infedility though at all times is touching, humourous and historically interesting. One of the things I've always liked best about this book is the fact that is unchallenging and easy to read but is a genuinely excellent piece of English literature. I have read little of her other works, but what I have read I've also deeply enjoyed.
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50 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An offbeat masterpiece 22 Feb 2004
If you're unfamiliar with Barbara Comyns' unique style, then this would be a good place to start. It is the (apparently semi-autobiographical) tale of the breakdown of an ill-starred marriage; and though the usual features of Comyns' novels are all here (a loveable, childlike first-person narrator; occasional touches of the macabre; a strange sense of things taking place at a certain slant to everyday reality), the book also has the intensity of personal experience. In place of the usual disclaimer about characters and events being purely fictitious, any resemblances being purely coincidental, etc., Comyns places a disarming little superscription: "The only things that are true in this story are the wedding and Chapters 10, 11 and 12 and the poverty."
Sophia, at the age of twenty-one, elopes with penniless young artist Charles to live the Bohemian life in London. She is an innocent abroad, who carries pet newt Great Warty about in her pocket and is ill-prepared for the real hardships of poverty and motherhood. An affair with an elderly art critic just makes the situation worse, and Sophia has to undergo a harrowing personal tragedy before ultimately finding unexpected happiness at the end of the book.
The seamless juxtapposition of the tragic and the macabre with lovingly drawn scenes from everyday life is completely typical of Comyns' writing, but reaches a new intensity in this novel, which as a result is extremely and unexpectedly moving. Comyns was a real Great British Eccentric, and coming across her work for the first time is an utter delight for the reader. If you haven't encountered her before, then do buy this book: I don't think you'll be disappointed.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful Classic....Very Moving. 8 July 2013
This starts off as a light hearted comic story about a rather eccentric bohemian couple marrying against the advice of their families, but swiftly becomes a poignant story of survival during the lean years of the early 1930's. Sophia's husband treats her with an offhand selfishness and cruelty which sadly rings true throughout. Each new degradation, caused largely by his refusal to 'lower' himself by seeking actual work, is recounted with the same matter of fact style that is used throughout the novel. You cannot help but empathise with Sophia, or to be grateful that this story really does have a happy ending. I'll be looking out more by Barbara Comyns after this experience.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful Whimsy 28 Feb 2009
By Alun Williams VINE VOICE
When the green Virago Modern Classics first came out I used to buy one regularly - frequently judging them by the picture on the cover. Many struck me as being dull and worthy. This little novel is one of the few of them that I have kept and re-read several times. It is an excellent book to cheer oneself up with: Sophia, the young mother who tells us part of her life story, (mostly set in 1930s Bohemian London), is an endearing, childlike, and rather foolish heroine with a fondness for newts. Her impulsive nature leads first to an unfortunate marriage with an impoverished painter, and later on to an affair with an ageing art critic. Poverty and pregnancies lead to disaster, but finally there is a very happy ending.

Although the book is rather light on the whole, there are sad parts too, and several vivid description of hospitals which make one very glad that medical science has moved on.

The prose style is very unusual - Sophia writes like quite a young child throughout, but all the same other characters emerge clearly through what they say for themselves.

This is perhaps not a great or an important novel, but many readers will cherish it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting 2 Jan 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is poignant but quirky and funny at the same time. An interesting 'old fashioned' read. Would recommend this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Deserved classic 30 Sep 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Loved re-reading again after many years - Comyns conjures a rackety, bohemian life with humour and compassion, and moves you both to tears and laughter.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Superb read 25 Sep 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Could not put this book down which is unusual for me usually takes me a month to read one. Will certainly look out for this author
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
There's something of a mystery about this book and its origins, because it reads like an autobiography with such wonderful detail - and in fact many of the events described mirror Barbara Comyns' life. It is, anyway, such a delightful book, with the personality and character of the author inscribed so indelibly on the page that it reads like a true story. Sophia Fairclough's life with her first husband Charles is mostly a disaster, not aided by the reaction to the marriage of Charles's parents. Charles is a painter, but not a very good one. He hardly ever sells anything and as long as he has his cigarettes and his painting materials he is blind to whatever else is going on around him. He carelessly eats whatever is in the house - once a cake Sophia was saving for their baby Sandor's first birthday. When funds are too low to support them He tries to persuade Sophia to send Sandor away to an orphanage, which she resists. Any money coming into the household is earned by Sophia, posing for various artists, one of whom seduces her with disastrous consequences.

Sophia loves animals - even a newt she keeps in a bowl, and later, when she has freed herself from Charles and obtained a housekeeper's job, a fox cub found in the garden of her employer. There are several deaths, including her second child, and the wife of her employer but these are not dwelt on. The description of the birth of Sandor is remarkable for the brutality with which women had to deal in those days - though dates are not mentioned, it feels like the 1920s, especially going by Ms Comyns' portrait with two dogs on the cover.

This book has a wonderfully happy ending which I will leave readers to discover for themselves. Packed with incident and accident, very much a bohemian life, this book is an enchanting read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read made my not want to put it down
My wife loved this book and would read another by this author. Was exciting and very funny. I would really recommend this book.
Published 5 months ago by peter
5.0 out of 5 stars a unique authorial voice
Barbara Comyns is a new writer to me but I intend to seek out more of her work. If anyone doubts the value of the Welfare State, the Abortion Act, and the Sexual Discrimination... Read more
Published 6 months ago by J. A. Dean
1.0 out of 5 stars Weak annoying character
Only a short book fortunately...it just got worse. Really hated the weak rather pathetic characters. No substance or real story....very disappointed. Read more
Published 6 months ago by max curtis
4.0 out of 5 stars On time and good condition
OK, but style a bit perfunctory. Bought it for my wife's book club - she won't be reading any more from this author.
Published 8 months ago by RodgerTL
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it
Was devastated when I came to the end if the book, will definately try and read more from Barbara Comyns. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Robert Preece
5.0 out of 5 stars Another excellent book by Babara Comyns
This book is well written and a most enjoyable read - would make a really good present for a friend..
Published 9 months ago by Good living
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but not brilliant
Book club choice so no choice. Liked style hugely but never really felt engaged with it as a story. Perhaps because it's a one character novel or because I hated the twee ending or... Read more
Published 10 months ago by hellomiche
4.0 out of 5 stars Our spoons came from woolworths
Lovely story had me gripped from the off . very engaging heroin although she doesn't always choose the right path you still feel empathy for her. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Nikki b
5.0 out of 5 stars Surpassed all expectations, I am left wanting to obtain more of this...
A brilliant story , the first book I have started and had finish it in almost one sitting !! Do download it you will be transported to a previous life of unbelievable hardship yet... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Ermintrude
3.0 out of 5 stars All in the telling
In many ways quite a remarkable achievement - a voice like no other I have read, in a way putting the best but honest face on life - an unhappy early marriage, an unsuccessful... Read more
Published 11 months ago by William Jordan
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