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Westwood (Vintage Classics) Paperback – 4 Aug 2011


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Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; First Paperback Edition edition (4 Aug. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 009952872X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099528722
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.8 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 223,418 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

"Westwood captures the heart, right from its opening pages… as an account of what it was like to be an ordinary young woman in wartime London - no stockings, no chocolate, no men - it can hardly be bettered. How did it, I wonder, evade fresh new soft covers for so long?" (Rachel Cooke Observer)

"A wartime masterpiece" (Evening Standard)

"Stella Gibbons is the Jane Austen of the 20th century" (Lynne Truss)

"Gibbons was an acute and witty observer, and her dissection of the British class system is spot-on" (Mail on Sunday)

"You show up a group of characters, all of whom are discontented and unhappy. Yet the feeling that comes through very powerfully is that life is wonderful, in spite of individual bitterness and frustration." (Fan letter Letter to Stella Gibbons from Henry Parris)

Book Description

A delightful tale of wartime romance and friendship

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Goth lady on 20 Aug. 2011
Format: Paperback
Hurrah for Vintage! I've been methodically tracking down Stella Gibbons's novels for years, finding them in library stacks and in second hand bookshops, and now, at long last, here are some of her most scintillating novels back in print with great new covers. 'Westwood' contains some of her sharpest, most satirical writing, and even if her main target i.e the pretentious playwright and writer, Charles Morgan, disguised here as Challis, may not be familiar to modern readers, this hardly matters, as he has many successors in the literary world of today. The opening of the book, evoking Hampstead Heath in war-time, is one of the best passages Stella Gibbons ever wrote, and her sly humour fills every page.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Book 1981 on 2 July 2012
Format: Paperback
Margaret Steggles is a teacher in her early twenties who has just moved to London with her parents during the Second World War. She is bookish and plain, a romantic who 'feels too much.' Walking one day on Hampstead Heath, she finds a ration book, and upon returning it to its owner she is drawn into the glamorous and artistic world of playwright Gerard Challis and his family. Unbeknownst to Margaret, however, her close friend Hilda (sunny and pretty where Margaret is dreamy and awkward) has also been drawn, somewhat reluctantly, into Gerard Challis' world as well.

Gibbon's signature sense of humour is very much in evidence in Westwood's characters; Margaret's brittle, nasty mother, the careless arrogance of the Challises, the explosive, hysterical passion of Zita the Jewish refugee, Gerard Challlis's arrogant sexism, Hilda's breezy disregard for anything remotely unpleasant. Against the evocative backdrop of North London, the world of brilliant, cheating husbands and charming, bohemian wives is expertly drawn and very entertaining.

I feel I have to issue a warning though - A quote from The Times on the back of the book suggests that Gibbons is the Jane Austen of the twentieth century. If that's what you're expecting, you will be disappointed. Gibbons is clever and funny, but also incurably light and frothy. Cold Comfort Farm is her best work, and Westwood is very clearly inferior. The characters often seem compromised for comedy value and the story feels rudderless and unstructured. Too much time is spent on one thing and then too little on another. Doubtless this is a funny and sharp book, but it lacks substance and form, which ultimately renders it rather forgettable.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jack Ellen on 18 Oct. 2011
Format: Paperback
This is the first Stella Gibbons novel I read. Gibbons is brilliantly observant and her characters are particularly well-drawn, with a really evocative sense of place from every setting she describes. She also has a knack for dialogue - often you can imagine it on a cinema screen with a few old school British character actors and actresses, such as Margaret's young Diana Dors-ish sounding best friend. There's a darker undertow in the main character's entrapment in suburbia and her dreams of escape to the Hampstead arts world, where the chattering classes are revealed as fairly dull and banal. With the dirty realism here amid the lightness of touch, at times you can even feel you're reading something as contemporary as Douglas Coupland or Rachel Cusk in the way she logs off-beat detail or breaks down her characters' self-image.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 7 Sept. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was looking forward to this book, having loved 'Cold Comfort Farm', but really struggled with it. As a previous reviewer said, all the characters seemed unattractive and unconvincing, and the whole set-up was extremely unlikely. The plot didn't seem to know where it was going and took some extraordinary diversions - what was the point of a fanciful history of Highgate suddenly appearing, for example? - and I found myself skipping over pages. I also found Margaret's reaction to the Downs Syndrome child uncomfortable reading in this day and age. Didn't have any of the verve or charm of CCF, in my opinion.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. K. A. Wheatley TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 11 Nov. 2011
Format: Paperback
Cold Comfort Farm is one of my all time favourite books. I was aware that Stella Gibbons had written many other novels, and that most of them were out of print. So when this was reprinted I leapt at the chance to read it. I realise it is always going to be difficult if your first book turns out to be both popular and then an enduring classic, to write anything that comes up to it afterwards, but this book was so disappointing on so many levels. It wasn't that it was just not Cold Comfort Farm, it was that in my opinion it was a fairly dreadful novel regardless. The only bits of the book I really loved were some of the descriptions of London that Gibbons writes. The first few pages describing Margaret's house hunting between Highgate and Hampstead showed real beauty and promise. Sadly things went down hill from there on in. I really loathed all the characters, who were to a man unsympathetic, particularly Margaret. The story was weak, the plot meandering and the whole tone was dreary. The characterisations of the 'foreigners', the American soldiers and Zita were crass and the dialogue woeful, and the writing about and attitudes displayed towards the disabled child in the second half of the book were horrifying. I understand this was written at a different time, and that many people would have felt the same, but it was still deeply unpleasant to read.
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