1930s Chick Lit

The Nutmeg Tree – Margery Sharp

Jane from Fleur Fisher Reads recommended Margery Sharp, as an author who should be read by more people. I struggled to find any of her books as they are now out of print, but then I struck gold and found three all together!

The Nutmeg Tree was first published in 1937 and was probably the 1930s version of chick-lit on its release. It was a lovely, light entertaining read – the perfect antidote to all the depressing books I’ve been subjecting myself to recently.

The story centres on Julia who is widowed after a very short marriage. She decides to leave her daughter, Susan, in the care of her in-laws to pursue a career on the stage. She has no contact with her daughter and is surprised to receive a letter from her twenty years later, begging her to come and visit the family in France.

The point is that I want to get married and Grandmother objects. 

Julia decides to be reunited with her daughter and travels to France at the first opportunity.

The Nutmeg Tree is a heart warming book, packed with details of an English way of life that just doesn’t exist any more. The plot isn’t the best thing I’ve ever read, but it did make me smile!

I would normally have a problem with a character that abandoned her daughter, but for some reason this didn’t really come into it – I loved Julia’s character and just accepted that things were different back then. Julia is such a bold character who finds herself in all sorts of sticky situations – I loved the ingenious ways in which she wormed her way out of trouble and her courtship behaviour was very entertaining.

This book will appeal to fans of Persephone books, and I hope that one day they reprint one of her books as Margery Sharp does deserve to be rediscovered.


Have you ever read anything by Margery Sharp?

Can you recommend any other forgotten authors who are worth seeking out?

2009 Chick Lit

The Late, Lamented Molly Marx – Sally Koslow

The Late, Lamented Molly Marx is a light, but enjoyable chick lit novel, with a difference. The difference is that Molly is dead, and the book begins with her observing her own funeral.

Molly finds herself being able to watch her loved ones as they go about their lives without her and is also able to tune into their thoughts. We quickly realise that Molly’s life wasn’t straight forward and we are left trying to work out the cause of her death, which isn’t revealed until the end.

The book was too fluffy to be profound or thought provoking, so should be viewed as entertainment rather than giving any insight into the after-life or how to cope with the loss of a loved one.

I found the characters to be quite shallow and I didn’t like any of them, but strangely this didn’t really matter. I was pulled along by the mystery and found the ending to be both unpredictable and satisfying.

Overall, I found this to be a nice distraction from some of the deeper books I’ve been reading recently, but I don’t think I’ll remember much about it in a year’s time.

Recommended to chick lit fans who are looking for something slightly different.


1980s Chick Lit Recommended books

The Fifth Child – Doris Lessing

I loved We Need to Talk About Kevin, so when Dorte suggested that The Fifth Child sounded similar, I decided to find a copy. Dorte is right, the two books both deal with a mother who is struggling to deal with ‘an unlovable child’ and I think fans of We Need to Talk About Kevin will enjoy this one too.

The Fifth Child focuses on a loving couple, Harriet and David, who buy a big house and dream of filling it with happy children. Each year they have a new child, and their dream seems to be coming true, but then everything changes when their fifth child is born. Ben is different from the beginning. She feels his violence even during the pregnancy, and when he is born he is of a completely different temperament to his older brothers and sisters. Harriet struggles to cope with his aggressive behaviour, which seems to get worse as he grows. The older children become isolated and fearful of their younger brother, and the family begins to fall apart.

The book raises many important issues, including whether ‘bad’ children are born that way, and whether it is more important to look after the four ‘good’ children, or focus your attention on the one difficult child.

I found Ben’s character a lot less believable than Kevin’s. His violence seemed a bit extreme, for example I cannot imagine any one-year-old deliberately killing animals, and found it even more implausible that she had to chase an 18-month-old for more than a mile before catching him – surely any adult can catch any child under the age of five in less than 50 metres?  

I also found the writing style a little tedious – there were no breaks in the text at all – no chapters, not even a small break between paragraphs. So, although it was only a short book (130 pages) I found it difficult to find places to stop for a short break. These are minor issues though, as this book is well worth reading.

Overall, this was a very interesting book, which would be perfect for book clubs. Recommended to anyone interested in parenting issues.


Have you read any books by Doris Lessing?

Can you recommend any other books which focus on similar parenting issues?

2008 Chick Lit

Believers – Zoe Heller

I loved  Notes on a Scandal, so was really looking forward to reading this book. Unfortunately I was very disappointed.

The writing style seemed much more intelligent than Notes on a Scandal, but it quickly started to focus on politics and religion – two topics which I hate reading about.

Joel and Audrey had a keen contempt for all religions, but Judaism, being the only variety of theistic mumbo-jumbo in which they were themselves ancestrally implicated, had always inspired their most vehement scorn.

The central character, Rosa, has to be one of the most annoying characters I have ever read about:

All her moral disappointment had been reserved for others – schoolmates who failed to resist the temptation of South African fruit, college acquaintances who were insufficiently concerned about the fate of the Angolan freedom fighters, bourgeois parents who pretended to socialist virtue. As a teenage, she had often been urged by her father to temper her revolutionary zeal with some sympathy for human frailty, But Rosa had scorned these attempts to modify her wrath.

I’m afraid that I couldn’t tolerate her abusive remarks on top of the politics and religion, so I gave up after about 100 pages. I need to enjoy or be educated by the books I read, and I’m afraid this one just annoyed me too much. If you enjoy books which focus on politics and religion, and can cope with a book whose central character is really irritating, then this book is really well written, and packed with thought provoking sentences. It is just such a shame that the writing made me want to throw the book at the wall every five minutes! Not for me at all!!


Did you love  Notes on a Scandal?

Have you read any other books written by Zoe Heller?

Can you finish a book which you find really annoying?

2009 Chick Lit Historical Fiction

A Secret Alchemy – Emma Darwin

The Secret Alchemy is set in both present day and 15th century England. The interwoven stories are seen through the eyes of both Elizabeth Woodville, the beautiful widow of King Edward IV, and her brother Anthony; whilst the modern section is told by historian, Una, who is writing a book on Anthony Woodville’s library. Elizabeth Woodville is the mother of the famous ‘Princes in the Tower’, who were imprisoned in the Tower by their uncle, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, after Edaward’s death.

I was impressed by the way each section came across differently, with all three characters having a recognisable voice, although I’m not sure how accurate the language of the historical section was. I’m not an expert, but it just reads differently from other books written about this period.

I didn’t think that the modern day section was really necessary. I felt the book could have benefited from concentrating on Elizabeth’s story, as I really enjoyed reading about her. Una’s character just seemed to be there to explain the history of the War of the Roses, which although I found useful, should have been able to be achieved within the historical section. I think that anyone who knows much about this period of history would feel patronised by the continual explanations of events, but luckily for me, my only knowledge of this period comes from reading Jean Plaidy books, and that was a while ago now! Towards the end the number of characters got a bit confusing for me, so I had to keep referring to the family tree provided in the front of the book, so I’m really pleased that was included.

This book is light and easy to read, but lacks the atmosphere of a great piece of historical fiction. I can see why this book would appeal to many people, but I felt that it meandered around a bit too much and so failed to really engage me. 


Emma Darwin’s first book The Mathematics of Love was short listed for the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize (Best First Book, Europe and South Asia) in 2007. It seems to have much more favourable reviews than this one. Has anyone read it?

2000 - 2007 Chick Lit

The Post-Birthday World – Lionel Shriver

I loved We Need to Talk About Kevin, so was really looking forward to reading this one. Unfortunately it didn’t quite live up to expectations, but was still a great read.

The Post-Birthday World follows Irina, who is in a long term relationship with Lawrence. One night Lawrence is away and Irina goes to dinner with Ramsey, her friend’s ex-husband. The first chapter ends with Irina almost kissing Ramsey. The book then splits into two sections. Alternating chapters show Irina in parallel worlds. In one world she kisses Ramsey that night, whereas in the other she doesn’t. It is a great idea for a book, and shows how one tiny decision can have a massive effect on your life.

The main focus of the book is relationships. I loved the detailed analysis of how couples interact with each other and the character observations. Every character was well formed and behaved realistically. I have to admit that I got bored by Ramsey’s snooker playing (I’m not a big fan!) but I guess we’re are meant to, as we are supposed to be empathising with Irina, who also has to endure watching the snooker.

I was going to say that the book felt very dated, but it progressed to end only a few years ago. The first half of the book was set in 1996/1997 and the news stories and technology were very obvious. I guess the fact it felt so dated was actually the great skill of Lionel Shriver in setting the scene for that period in history so accurately. It feels weird saying that a book set only 12 years ago feels dated, but when you are reading about small news items, which I have long since forgotten about, it really shows.

I also felt that the book was a bit long. By the half way point the novelty of the two different worlds had worn off, and I began to get bored by having to read the same events happening twice, but from the two different perspectives. I felt that the book could have benefitted from losing about 200 of it’s 500 pages.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book, but if you only read one Lionel Shriver book, make sure it is We Need to Talk About Kevin.



Warning: This book contains many scenes of a sexual nature, so avoid it if you don’t like that sort of thing.

I have heard that these are the best two Lionel Shriver books. Have you read any of the others? If so, are they as good?