on 28 May 2002
This isn't a Maud Silver novel. BEGGAR'S CHOICE was first published in 1931, during that long gap in the Silver series between GREY MASK (1928) and the 2nd Silver novel (1937), wherein Wentworth mastered her craft with a number of non-Silver efforts. In this case, Wentworth experiments a little with the epistolary style - that is, much of the book is in the form of diary entries and letters. If you're not familiar with her work, this isn't typical of her style; the viewpoint character or characters are usually treated in third person, giving the reader a window on their thoughts without being told directly by them. What with Car Fairfax's diary entries, much of this book is in 1st person, told not as it happened but as he wrote it down afterward - because it was so strange that if he didn't get it down in black and white while it was fresh, he'd have thought he was going crazy. It loses some pizzazz, since we know he must have come out of it all right.
Car's father liked to live high without anything to live on, so when he died, Car was left with a pile of debts, and had to leave the rather expensive regiment he'd belonged to. Unfortunately, his civilian job as secretary to Peter Lymington's father ended with the collapse of the firm, and its presence on his resume branded him as knave, fool, or both. Too proud to sponge on friends or family, he's at rock bottom, and watching over Faye - Peter's wife, left behind while Peter gets the money to get her to join him in the USA - when he can barely look after himself. (There's nothing between Car and Faye - not on his side, at least; he's in love with someone else, and has no hope of being able to afford to settle down properly.) He quarrelled with his uncle, and they're both too stubborn to give in. Then someone approaches him with an odd proposition...
Frankly, this book is a mess in terms of figuring out what's going on. The unevenness of style - 3rd person to epistolary and back - doesn't work well. We see too much of Faye and not enough of Isobel, the girl Car's really supposed to be interested in. We even see more of Car's disagreeable cousin Anna - is she after the uncle's money, in trouble, or both? - than of Isobel. Even Car's character isn't as developed as that of most of Wentworth's later protagonists.
All in all, interesting mostly as an example of an author's growing pains.
on 5 May 2016
After reading two Miss Silver novels ,I wasn't convinced about this author . I did enjoy this different and earlier work more . In places the shifts were a little obvious and at times coincidence was stretched ---however there was a really good story in there and it moved at a good pace.
Not a book for keen puzzlers ,but if you like to vary your reading then this was a good adventure/romance. the female characters were well portrayed and Ms Wentworth knew how to give vivid focus to their clothes and hair styles--that did give the whole atmosphere a real lift as well .
Yet again ,an entertaining and educational introduction by Curt Evans ,gave the book a first class send off ...as a result I shall try some of the other non -Miss Silver titles . As ever ,the excellent synopsis means shorter reviews for new potential readers . !
on 20 May 2016
There's not another writer around who could dish up this ridiculous codswallop with such elan that the reader would love every minute of it. The story is too far fetched. You can tell that even Wentworth herself doesn't believe in the diary as a literary device. And Car is lame in the extreme. But the story draws you in, and you find yourself amused in spite of it all.
Wentworth is not the best, but she is undeniably the most amusing of the golden age mystery writers.