Wednesday, April 20, 2022

The Cuckoo in Spring by Elizabeth Cadell #1954Club

Title: The Cuckoo in Spring
Author: Elizabeth Cadell
Publication: Thorndike Press, hardcover, 1954
Genre: Fiction
Setting: 20th century England
This review is for the #1954Club, hosted by StuckinaBook and Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings, in which bloggers are invited to read and review books that were published in a specific year.

Description: Edwin Hurst and his son, Oliver, solicitors, have an eccentric client in Yorkshire who wants his paintings valued. They persuade Oliver’s brother Julian, an art dealer, to undertake the project, which Julian does only because there might be something worthwhile and because he plans to visit his godmother in Scotland afterward for a lively house party. Julian, considered spoilt and arrogant even by his fond mother, is horrified by his rude host and the lack of comfort at Holside Manor where the only staff are an elderly man and a cook. However, the cook, Alexandra Bell, is beautiful and extremely competent, and he is captivated. He finds four valuable Clauval paintings and falls in love with Alexandra, who seems to reciprocate his feelings. But when she and the paintings disappear, Julian has to face the fact that he is responsible and decide what to do about it.

My Impression: This is one of Cadell’s most amusing books, full of quirky characters. I think her heroes fall into two categories: handsome and arrogant (although some are more charming about it than others; see Any Two Can Play) and quirky unappealing (but lovable to the heroine) as in The Past Tense of Love and The Corner Shop. Julian is a successful businessman in the art gallery he runs with his aunt but it is clear to the reader he is used to easy success with women and he says plainly he has no intention of marrying until he is 30 and has sowed all his wild oats:
“You wouldn’t do anything unless it amused you.”

“Is that an assessment of my character?”

“I’m not sure that you’ve got much character,” said Alexandra judicially. “I’m not criticizing; I’m just stating a fact. Some people have to go through life working at something, and some people, like you, just have to go through life. The first time I heard you speak I heard a clicking sound.”

“A -?”

“The silver spoon,” said Alexandra. “The sound is unmistakable. Whenever I hear it, I tell myself not to expect too much.”
Although Julian falls genuinely in love with Alexandra, he takes her for granted. It is delightful to see him get his comeuppance when Alexandra disappears with his paintings and it is amusing to watch his family try to gossip over his behavior to figure out what is going on. The book is full of memorable individuals from the father who yearns for retirement to avoid coping with new technology, the self-absorbed sister who is offended when Julian ignores her newborn, and the mother who won’t admit she has a favorite:
“Well, it will no doubt sort itself out, my dear.”

“But don’t you think we ought to say something?”

“Say something?”

“To Julian. Shouldn’t we ask him what’s the matter?”

Mr. Hurst leaned back and prepared to read. He spoke with an air of finality.

“Certainly not, my dear,” he said.

“But Edwin, he might want us to help him!”

“That is what I am afraid of,” said Mr. Hurst.
Alexandra has been earning her own living since her mother died when she was 16, without complaint. She needs a family like the Hursts to spoil her but only if she can puncture Julian’s smugness first.
Source: Library


Karen K. said...

This sounds like a fun book, exactly the sort of thing I would read if I could get hold of a copy! Maybe a possible title for a Furrowed Middlebrow reprint?

Tami said...

The books are available on Amazon! They’ve been reprinted.

Simon T (Stuckinabook) said...

Oh this sounds so fun - and what a great cover.

Claire (The Captive Reader) said...

I think I've read this a few times (thanks to the readily available ebooks - thank goodness for these!) and yet I have only the dimmest memories. But perhaps that's because I have a weakness for Cadell's quirky heroes - the handsome ones all fade from memory.