[From Sue’s diary. She has been invited to a party.]
Wednesday 11th February … Back home I went straight to my wardrobe and flung open the door. Pinafores, pinafores, nothing but pinafores. It was just my luck to be in a pinafore phase with a date with Icarus Fry in the diary. I began to feel the strong temptation to blow all my savings on a devastating dress, but I lay on my bed in the Grey Room instead and gazed into his eye [in a photograph] …
Saturday 14th Feb (St Valentine’s Day) 3.45pm
I’ve been so worried about my wardrobe that at one point I nearly decided not to go. I considered spending decadent sums of money on a fabulous new dress, but Aunt Coral urged me not to.
‘Young men are piglets and you should find out if he’s worth it before you spend your pennies,’ she said.
Icarus Fry a piglet? … In the end I decided on my most devastating pinafore with a pair of Aunt Coral’s jazzy high heels, though I’ve had to leave wet potatoes in them all night, which Aunt C told me would stretch them. Delia has helped me with my hair and face. I just hope Icarus will see through the packaging.
observations: Sue’s diary forms most of this charming and original book: she is a teenager whose mother has died, and who goes to stay with an eccentric aunt in a large country house. You will not be surprised to find that there are all kinds of other odd people living in the house, but that is the only predictable part of the book.
Sue is upset that her father has found a new partner too soon, and not sure what her future holds. She has dreams and plans, and an ambitious way with language – her malapropisms add to the joy of the book (I particularly liked that the father’s girlfriend was in the ‘last-chance salon’), and her attempts at creative writing assignments are hilarious.
What’s nice about it is that although there’s a good solid plot, and you very much want to know what’s going to happen, there is very little in the way of jeopardy or mean characters. There is one cartoon-ishly villainous young woman, but everyone else is gently weird, going about their lives with enormous goodwill. It is most refreshing.
Sara Crowe is a well-known comic actress in the UK, and this is her first novel: often that sort of a bio would have you rather nervous about the book, but in this case it stands on its own merits.
The publishers, Transworld, gave me my copy: the book is published today, April 10th. The cover I think is perfect: pleasing, and giving a fair impression of the book.
I’m not convinced that a 17-year-old in 1987 would really have a wardrobe of pinafores: but then I found this picture of a rather devastating one in a fashion magazine from the end of 1986, although it seems likely Sue would not have worn the hat with it.