The Eye of Love by Margery Sharp
published 1957 chapter 27 set in the 1920s
"...It was very late when Miss [Dolores] Diver entered [the party]; but when she did, nothing could have given Miranda greater satisfaction than, in every sense, her appearance. It was to a certain degree fashionable. Gay jumpers were in fashion, and Dolores’ was a gay as a Spanish shawl. In fact it was made from a Spanish shawl; she had made it herself.
Tiny tilted hats were in fashion, and she had bought a new one. Black fox was still a fashionable fur, all women were wearing a good deal of make-up: Miranda was still well satisfied by Miss Diver’s appearance.
She caught sight of her at once, across the length of the room; not for an instant, in the thickest of the party, had she forgotten to watch the door. Dolores paused just within, as it happened beside Miss Harris and Miss Molyneux, momentarily converging to compare notes. (‘I believe it will be the movies, dear’ murmured the latter philosophically. ‘So far I’ve just given my telephone-number…’)
Harry didn’t see her… ‘There’s someone you know, Harry!’ whispered Miranda playfully. ‘See, an old friend!’ – and pointed Miss Diver out to him.
Thus to Miss Diver’s moment of defeat succeeded Miranda’s moment of triumph. Watching Harry’s face, she saw her plan so successful, she almost laughed with pleasure… it was hard to say which was the most grotesque, the ill-cut garish jumper, or the ropy old black fox, or the fashionable hat perched uneasily on such coils of ropy hair, or the long bedaubed countenance beneath..."
Romance (for Valentine’s Day) comes in many forms, and this is a pretty unusual one. Miranda is about to get her come-uppance: she is engaged to Harry, and has invited his former mistress – whom she considers risible - to a party. Big mistake. Any experienced novel-reader can predict what will happen. But not one writer in a hundred (and no screenplay writer) would do what Margery Sharp does – which is, NOT give Dolores a makeover. It would have been the easy way out – get her a friend who will do her up (Kitty from the Laurels are Poison blog entry), make her somehow become beautiful and attractive and a belle, or just striking or well-dressed even. But no, Dolores appears as she always does, a scarecrow-like figure. What the foolish Miranda has not taken into account is Harry’s feelings, and Harry’s way of looking at Dolores. The Eye of Love indeed. It’s a most satisfying revenge scene, in a really great - and in many ways very unromantic - book. Miss Harris and Miss Molyneux are extra joys in the story, as they roam the party, hoping for something better but prepared to stick together if nothing turns up.
Margery Sharp is remembered now mostly for The Rescuers – children’s books turned into Disney films – but well done Virago for re-publishing this splendid book, one of many she wrote for adults.
The picture sees Dolores’ transformed shawl through the eye of love. It is from the collection of the National Library of Ireland and it was, hilariously, thought necessary to emphasize that the lady concerned would have been wearing a strapless evening dress under the shawl.
Today's book was suggested by Jackie, a follower.