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50 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
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...
Published on 21 Feb 2003 by kate bradbury

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Unusual book, worth trying.
This book was recommended to me. It's completely different from anything else you've read. Good story and it was OK but I don't think it gripped me the way it gripped my friend. One of its features is the way everything is handled the same- high drama and mundane details all in the same tone (this is specifically mentioned in the foreward and notes) I'm not sure I was...
Published 1 month ago by policefox lyn


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50 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 21 Feb 2003
By 
kate bradbury (London, England) - See all my reviews
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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51 of 55 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
By 
R. Vowles "becky" (Truro, UK) - See all my reviews
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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 "mathematician manqué" (Peterborough,England) - See all my reviews
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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
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This review is from: Our Spoons Came From Woolworths: A Virago Modern Classic (VMC Book 105) (Kindle Edition)
This is poignant but quirky and funny at the same time. An interesting 'old fashioned' read. Would recommend this book.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Unusual book, worth trying., 26 July 2014
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This review is from: Our Spoons Came From Woolworths: A Virago Modern Classic (VMC Book 105) (Kindle Edition)
This book was recommended to me. It's completely different from anything else you've read. Good story and it was OK but I don't think it gripped me the way it gripped my friend. One of its features is the way everything is handled the same- high drama and mundane details all in the same tone (this is specifically mentioned in the foreward and notes) I'm not sure I was keen on that.
Odd little book but I quite liked it. Worth a punt.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Deserved classic, 30 Sep 2013
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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
By 
Mrs. J. Barrett "jennyb" (England) - See all my reviews
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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
4.0 out of 5 stars "Sometimes we were happy and spent days in the sun on the Heath...", 11 Jan 2013
By 
Eileen Shaw "Kokoschka's_cat" (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
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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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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars simply classic, 9 Sep 2010
By 
S. Dalton (England) - See all my reviews
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Has this been made into a film? If not, why not. Simple and incredibly descriptive, but beautifully written with such honesty I couldn't put this novel down. I really felt that I was living with the characters and understood their poverty and untimely bad fortunes. Can't wait for her other books to arrive after reading this first...
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