Friday, 25 May 2012

A satisfying child, drawing in the street

the book:

The Eye of Love by Margery Sharp

Published  1957    chapter 17   set in the 1920s


When Martha, in Almaviva Place, stood memorising the chestnut tree, she had confidently expected to be able to put it on paper as soon as she got home; but this was not so. She couldn’t get the two triangles, into which the whole tree should fit, in the right proportions. She put the attempt aside, but now and then took it out to look at; it bothered her to leave any piece of work unfinished. In the end… she returned for a check on site…

Martha propped her back against a convenient lamp-post, emptied her pockets, and set to work. It was a brilliant October morning, but the first cold snap; her hands were awkwardly cold. This difficulty Martha overcame by pulling down the wrists of her jersey inside her reefer-jacket and cutting slits to push her fingers through. Thus mittened, her hands warmed; only her feet froze. She looked around for something to stand on…. Martha considered; she knew her temperature would rise as soon as she started drawing, and her jersey was thick; so she removed her jacket and stood on that. It took her ten minutes or so to get comfortable, then she settled down for a good long spell.


observations: Nine-year old Martha is the supremely un-annoying child in fiction: she is not sweet, she doesn’t endear herself to people, and yet she is lovely. An orphan, she lives with her aunt, and their relationship is refreshingly unsentimental.

Martha is an extremely good artist: it is always difficult to describe this in a book, but Margery Sharp succeeds in making you at least want to see the little girl’s pictures of, for example, the wire shelves of the gas oven. And she knows exactly what to do about the presuming lodger, Mr Philips: when his come-uppance arrives, she throws his luggage over the bannisters.

Links up with: Her story plays out in parallel to that of her aunt, whose romance made for a heart-stopping
St Valentine’s Day entry. The aunt likes to call her suitor Bluff King Hal, though not otherwise resembling Anne Boleyn or Cardinal Wolsey. Fiona in this entry was an art student.

The photo, of Miss Flora Whitney, is from the
Bain Collection at the Library of Congress.

2 comments:

  1. I love the picture you chose for this! And your commentary is perfect. Martha is one of the most unique little gals in fiction, all the more interesting because she lives for art and virtually nothing else.

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    Replies
    1. thank you! Such an unusual and perfect book, it should be better known. and Martha certainly is one of the great child characters.

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