The Girls from Shepard’s Bush
This should have been posted a week ago, but I was busy playing catch up with life after a brilliant vacation and things kind of got out of control! Anyway, moving on in an effort to gain control, let me start by saying what I keep repeating often, that my blogging – universe friends really do take me on reading adventures, that I could not have fathomed let alone, explore, if it was not for their ideas, encouragement and reviews. Ali and Jane are such people; they keep finding these lost gems that I never knew existed and suddenly I am in the world of a marvelous author, albeit now almost lost – a considerable tragedy, considering how brilliant they are! Naturally, when Ali decided to host Mary Hocking Week, I just had to join the party. I had never read Mary Hocking, but both Jane and Ali had high words of praise, and some of her books were set in genre very close to my heart – the family sagas in the pre-world war II world. How could I possibly pass up such an opportunity???
Thus I started my tryst with Mary Hocking’s Good Daughters, Volume 1 of her Farley Family Series.
Set in 1933, the book opens with an introduction to the Farley Family residing in Shepard’s Bush, London – Stanley, the father is a well intentioned, albeit a strict Methodist man, who is the principle of a Boy’s school. He is a kind, good man, wanting the best for his family, somewhat out of touch with reality. His wife Judith is a strong, sensible woman who is far more in touch with reality and changes that they need to make in the lives, as their daughters start to become women. The daughters in order of their age are Louise, Alice and Clare, who have hereto led sheltered but good lives but are now on the threshold of womanhood; particularly Louise who is seeking new freedoms and adventures, trying to break free from her father’s Methodist lifestyle and dreams of becoming an actress. Alice, is the middle daughter, a plum girl good in sports and a hidden talent for writing, trying to find her own world as she enters teenage. Clare is the youngest of the Farley girls,. the most earnest and single minded, still a child, trying to understand the world, where her sister’s are disappearing into. As Hitler starts to make threatening noises in Europe, life in Shepard Bush, also changes for the three girls as they make new friends, discover new emotions and realize that there is perhaps no simple answers to life and there is more to things than just appearances. Over the next two years that the novel plots, we see the girls making choices and settling into lives on which they did not intend to set out originally, but were now firmly trodding on and with the Farley parents, forced to accept changes, that they never thought they would need to make!
I loved the characterizations – the Farley parents outshine all others. You love them, you are irritated with them, especially when remembering your own adolescence, and you find solace and warmth in them. Mary Hocking created two perfect characters in Stanley and Judith, imbibing them with many human flaws, and yet making them outstanding parents and friends, who see you through, when they see your through. The daughters are also very well drawn out and though I could not relate to Louise, I could understand the need to breakaway and I saw strong glimpses of my friends and myself in Alice and Claire. The ensemble cast is equally brilliant – as a reader you want to be friends with the next door neighbors Vaseyelin family, the Russian family who escaped the Revolution, Miss Blaze the formidable principle of the school the girls attend, the grandparents and cousin Ben, the orphaned, studious, self made young man. Mary Hocking presents a wonderful picture of a family and their daily lives in the world which was thought to be safe, in the wake of World War I. She brings out the disbelief of the changes that seemed to be propelling the world into another war externally as well changes more at home which the Farley’s need to make in beautiful and balanced contrast. Despite, all this, I do own I kind of felt let down – like a promise that was not kept. There was too much time spent on the sexual awakening of the daughters and while I understand girls at that age are curious about things happening to them, I do not think that is the only preoccupation – a feeling I distinctly got from the novel, as I heard of the changes and longings of the eldest two daughters, especially Louise.Furthermore, I found the ending a bit cliched and even linear,again in specific reference to Louise – what happened, we expected to happen from early on in the novel. There are things and people I would have liked to explore more and maybe in her Volume 2 and 3, Mary Hocking does do them justice. I will have to read to find more! The language is clear and concise – simple yet definitive prose that draws clear mental pictures for the reader of the kind of home and family and life that the author tried to showcase!
Good Daughters is a great read, with some reservations, but good enough to convince me to reach out for more Mary Hocking’s novels and for sure complete the Farley Saga.
Thank You Ali for hosting the event and introducing me to another wonderful author!