It’s easy to enjoy a Jane Gardam book but hard to review it.
She’s the British writer with a long list of novels and non-fiction, not to mention every literary prize you can think of. Her gift I suppose is her originality, and this, in turn, makes her very funny.
“A Long Way from Verona” came out in l97l and has been reprinted five times since then. This is an attractive paper edition by Abacus.
A little girl of nine is going to school in England during World War ll. She and her teachers go on reading Dickens, Hardy and Shakespeare until interrupted by an air raid on the Junior School. They carry on in British fashion, when one day the heroine, Jessica Vye takes a different route home and stumbles across an escaped prisoner of war. She turns her experience into a poem called “The Maniac”. To her teachers’ consternation this wins a prize in “The Times” .
Up til then, Jessica had been considered unconventional and troublesome in her far-out essays. The book is written from her point of view; it does contain the standards of her broad-minded father,as well as a couple of superior teachers.
It is an intimate look at a writer’s sensibilities, even one as young as nine years old. Unpretentious, it is joyful in its candour and very funny in its anecdotes.
Review by Anne McDougall