Review: Our Spoons Came from Woolworths, by Barbara Comyns

Sophia is young and naive when she falls for Charles, a painter.  Believing love will see them through all sorts of troubles, they decide to marry even though neither has a reliable way to make a living.  Charles keeps hoping his talents will be discovered, and Sophia earns a bit of money here and there as a model for other artists.  They are desperately poor, and blissfully unaware of the need to “take precautions.” Sophia soon becomes pregnant, and at this point Charles turns into a bit of an ass.  He’s not keen about having a child, but reluctantly agrees it might be okay if it were a girl.  Of course it’s a boy, and he only halfheartedly fulfills his parental responsibilities.  Sophia is a bit slow to realize Charles is an ass, until she has an affair with a much older man.  The affair runs its course, as affairs often do, and she must then take decisive action to change the course of her life.

This sounds like a fairly typical love story, and on one level, it is.  But Sophia is a memorable, engaging and eternally optimistic narrator.  Here’s a typical excerpt:

That is the kind of stuff that appears in real people’s books.  I know this will never be a real book that business men in trains will read, the kind of business men that wear stiff hats with curly brims and little breathing holes let in the side.  I wish I knew more about words. Also I wish so much I had learnt my lessons in school. I never did, and have found this such a disadvantage ever since. All the same, I am going on writing this book even if business men scorn it.  (p. 54)

Sophia prattles on like this for over 220 pages, and she’s just so much fun to “listen” to.  Even when you know she’s heading for trouble, you can’t help but like her and hope for the best.  This is an unusual novel, and the first Comyns I’ve read.  I’ll definitely be back for more.

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3 thoughts on “Review: Our Spoons Came from Woolworths, by Barbara Comyns

  1. I thought Sophia’s tolerance went a bit far but I did realize that set in the time it was it probably was like that everywhere! I liked the style of writing very much.

  2. Ann & Mystica, thanks for stopping by. And you’ve reminded me, I should have mentioned the time period of this novel, which was the 1940s, just post-WWII.

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