Warrender Chase by Fleur Talbot
published 1950 chapter 11
“… His death had affected Marjorie most: there could be no doubt about that. She had said she was upset about the car crash, but the truth was that she was a woman transformed, as if a weight had been lifted from her shoulders. No-one quite dared contemplate why this should be so, as the possibilities were so blatant and at the same time so shocking. But no longer could Charlotte describe her as neurotic and droopy.
Roland came into the bedroom and said to her “You must get changed. We need to leave soon.”
Marjorie looked up at him. “I am ready.”
“But… but you can’t wear that! It is a memorial service for my uncle, you must wear something appropriate. Prudence would be horrified.”
She said “This is appropriate. It’s the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers: I am like a beautiful tropical fish. The board’s asunder.” She laughed wildly, stopped as suddenly, then lit a cigarette and stared at herself in the mirror.
“Marjorie is it possible that you have dyed your hair?” Roland was most distressed. “Have you taken leave of your senses?”
She ignored his questions, and gazed at her shoes. “On the way, may we visit his grave?” She stretched out one foot, pointed her toes, and admired her shoes.
Marjorie is intending to dance on the dead man’s grave: Warrender Chase was her husband’s uncle, and they will inherit his important papers, and the secrets they contain.
Fleur Talbot is largely forgotten now (though there was a revival interest in the early 1980s), but Warrender Chase, and its successors All Souls’ Day and The English Rose, were bestsellers in their day and must be candidates for republication by Persephone or Virago. They would also make excellent films or TV dramas of a very specific sort. Muriel Spark – to whom she was often compared – described the books as ‘sinister but spirited’, and that’s about right.
Fleur Talbot – from what is known of her – was a fascinating character. She said she was a bit fussy about who should read her books, she wanted good quality readers, and that she “wasn’t writing… so that the reader should think her a nice person but in order [to] convey ideas of truth and wonder.” We can only hope that Clothes in Books meets these high standards.
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With thanks to Emma for the suggestion. Photo is from George Eastman House, and can be found on Flickr.