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Starlight

Gladys and Annie Barnes are impoverished sisters who have seen better times They live in a modest cottage in the backstreets of Highate with Mr Fisher a mild but eccentric old man l. What a strange and wonderful journey this turned out to be Ty jesteś moje imię better times They live in a modest cottage in the The Many Lives of Fitzwilliam Darcy backstreets of Highate with Mr Fisher a mild Complete Amber Sourcebook but eccentric old man l. What a strange and wonderful journey this turned out to Jadę sobie. Azja. Przewodnik dla podróżujących kobiet be

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Of the cottages in the hope that there she will recover from an unspecified malady With a mounting sense of fear Gladys and Annie become convinced she is possessed by an evil spiri. I just finished reading Starlight and am feeling a bit gobsmacked I had only read Cold Comfort Farm and Westwoood so was really not expecting what this book delivered In fact I might not have read it at all had I known about the plot beforehand Like a couple of the book s characters I m not into creepy other than the CCF kind Stella Gibbons was a talented writer than I had realized because I was not at all put off by the plot developments Gibbons can certainly write characters In this book she reminded me of Trollope in that her characters are often weak irritating and selfish in other words all too human but she nevertheless retains a distant kindness for most of them I found her portraits of old age to ring especially true and touching with no hint of the maudlin I may revisit my three star rating at some point I feel I need to think about this one a bit longer Meanwhile I will look for books by her I d also like to read a biography if one exists

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Iving secretively in the attic above them Their uiet lives are thrown into confusion when a new landlord takes over a dreaded and unscrupulous 'rackman' He installs his wife in part. Stella Gibbons has the reputation of being a one hit wonder Cold Comfort Farm both immortalised her name but also overshadowed everything else she ever wrote A few years ago Vintage decided that this was terribly unfair and decided to re issue her back catalogue I had a go at Westwood given that Lynn Truss claimed that it was the Persuasion to Cold Comfort s Pride and Prejudice but alas I found it a bit grim at the time I was still living with my parents and found a few too many parallels with the unfortunate Margaret I might feel differently now Still I have been determined to try again and with Starlight I have finally succeeded Ten years after I first fell in love with Cold Comfort Farm I repeated the experience with this novel the perfect autumnal read Recently I read Barbara Comyns The Vet s Daughter and while that one had similarly stunning moments of description in Starlight Gibbons manages to far effectively stage a Gothic novel within the domestic sphere This is a spooky story rooted firmly in a world that is all too real a world of soggy afternoons and muddy lanes leading to beaten down houses The Gothic meets the mundane the flesh creeps but then we shudder and we go back to normalWe the reader are bystanders to the action we see or less through the eyes of Gladys Barnes an elderly lady living with her fellow spinster sister Annie in a run down cottage in Highgate Gladys jammers fairly constantly meaning that her fellow characters battle on just as the reader does to catch the thread of what on earth she might be talking about She reminded me of those Shakespearean characters who often opened second or third Acts and only ever spoke in prose you really have to pay attention to understand what is being said Gladys and Annie once knew better times they were born in the countryside and now have to face the horror of a new landlord who is known to be a dreaded rackman They and their eccentric but gently mannered upstairs neighbour are on tenter hooks over what might become of them under the new regime even seeking advice from the vicar Mr Geddes and his curate In any event the landlord s daughter drops round to inform them that all will be well but that the cottages will be done up for the landlord s invalid wife Mrs Pearson to move into the hope being that living in this area will aid her recoveryMr Pearson never uite seems as dark as he has been painted his origins are clouded he comes from the sloms of Tashkent and he is a coarse man but he is devoted to his wife to the point of obsession creating a pink and gold sanctum for her in Lily Cottage He is determined that she be well she has no complaints against him as a husband reminiscing to her daughter Peggy about their idyllic early married life in Tashkent when storks roosted on the roof Aged only eighteen Mrs Pearson had giggled that it must mean a baby would come and her husband had assured her that he would see to it Peggy wants to know the source of her mother s malady but it is shrouded in a mystery Mrs Pearson had been a medium and her ailment seems to stem from that The Pearsons seem so very nearly normal Peggy works as a companion cum dogsitter and appears to have a Dark Secret but it turns out to be utterly mundane Yet when Mr Pearson gives his wife Erika as an au pair Mrs Pearson exclaims in delight that she has always wanted a daughterIt is strange to compare Starlight to Cold Comfort the latter is a hilarious pastiche that borders on the surreal yet remains firmly planted in the natural world Starlight appears to be a comedy of manners observing the different classes converging on each other on the ground floor we have the well off Mrs Pearson in her pink and gold rooms with her schatz Erika then there is the working class Gladys and Annie and up in the attic the elderly and eccentric Mr Fisher who barely scratches a living We also have the educated man Mr Geddes the rough diamond Mr Pearson and the vapid new money Mrs Lysaght but Starlight is far far away from Barbara Pym territory It seems impossible that this is going to be a supernatural tale there is far too much domestic detail but yet we begin to recognise that something unsettling lurks within Mrs Pearson something that got into her all those years ago and she has never been uite able to shake it off Mrs Pearson hates the sound of the church bells we are repeatedly reminded by Gibbons how strange the phrase is when Mrs Pearson remarks that she wishes to touch the pavements with my feet There is a sense of a darkness gathering and we begin to see clearly the thing behind Mrs Pearson s eyesWhile another writer might ramp up the horror Stella Gibbons does just the opposite As well as pondering what might be going on in Lily Cottage the vicar Mr Geddes considers at length whether or not he can justify inviting his mother to come keep house for him and the curate When she finally arrives she sweeps around the house claiming the territory for her own throwing the cat out of the kitchen to its own space at the bottom of the garden The cat much prefers this arrangement and develops a passionate adoration for Mrs Geddes spending much of its time gazing at her and demanding to be stroked prompting her to repeatedly mutter how much she dislikes cats and occasionally condescend to manipulate the fur round its ears Gibbons assures it that nobody could it stroking Gibbon s eye for observation is as razor sharp here as it ever was in Cold Comfort we can tell we are in the same hands but the direction we are moving in is uite differentIt was always clear that Gibbons has very little truck with affectation She has a real knack for creating characters for whom the reader can feel a real contempt In Cold Comfort there was Mr Mybug who kept telling Flora that she was repressed while she politely sat there bored rigid Much of the humour in Westwood comes at the expense of Gerald Challis a fabulously pompous writer who was in fact based on a real person Here the villain really is Mrs Lysaght the foolish woman fixated on having a sitting on passing on the gossip in as cruel a manner as possible Gibbons does not suffer fools gladly and she always gives these characters the ultimate humiliation Even before the grand finale though Mr Geddes had unleashed the Polite Wrath of the Church of England when Mrs Lysaght vaguely pronounced that she was leaving the church as it was too narrow and going to try her hand at meditating It is so rare to read such a passionate defence of the church and it has become so easy to make the Anglican Church in particular the effortless punchline that Starlight was a double treat here Mr Geddes and curate are all that can save the residents from the grasping evilOn page 193 Gibbons notes that spring has arrived There were blue sky and warm sun and silver catkins and golden daffodils to be thankful for as well as the alleged return from the dead of a gifted teacher with a messiah complex Yet despite this flippant remark there is a conviction behind Gibbons words against Mrs Lysaght we see the author s true derision for people who dismiss Christianity as narrow and out dated when they have no clear idea how to replace it we sense her contempt for those who do not see that the narrow path was one set down by Jesus More importantly though Gibbons points out that only airheads like Mrs Lysaght with nothing better to do would ever come up with something so half baked in the first place The rest of us lead busy lives and are too occupied with our own affairsGibbons never dwells on the horror that is happening in her novel The characters seem to be unsurprised when the kindly Mr Fisher is suddenly wiped out in a senseless act of violence it is never explained or even uestioned Mr Fisher who changed his name every month who was silently but passionately anti war who saw to the truth of things and tried to do the right thing in an ordinary novel he is not a character who dies The very unexpectedness of it adds to the shock Similarly when events in the cottages reach their crescendo we arrive late at the scene having travelled with Mr Geddes Gladys has to anxiously explain what has happened Mrs Lysaght has already fled in hysterics desperate to find a taxi and everybody else is keen to bail out too Gibbons never ever names the evil being that has entered the house the manner of its banishment is exhausting yet again so understated We only hear the aftermath via Gladys and Annie yet I never felt cheated as I did upon finishing The Vet s Daughter because Starlight has a stronger emphasis on the realism rather than the magic Gibbons characters have a far greater bite than those drawn by Barbara Comyns Gladys and Annie pick themselves up and chat vaguely about what has just happened but we sense that it will fade as an anecdote as they move on This felt like a truly three dimensional tale oddly enough it felt very real the lurking darkness within Mrs Pearson a true threat Never written to shock Starlight is a tale for the fireside and embodies all that is great about British fictional traditions It was a true pleasure to discover another fantastic novel by Stella GibbonsFor my full review


About the Author: Stella Gibbons

Stella Dorothea Gibbons was an English novelist journalist poet and short story writerHer first novel Cold Comfort Farm won the Femina Vie Heureuse Prize for 1933 A satire and parody of the pessimistic ruralism of Thomas Hardy his followers and especially Precious Bain by Mary Webb the loam and lovechild genre as some called it Cold Comfort Farm introduces a self confident young woman



10 thoughts on “Starlight

  1. says:

    This is not the book to read if you are expecting a light hearted novel with perhaps some elements of the fantastic This is a story woven with the blue and the dim and the dark cloths of night a story that touche

  2. says:

    What a strange and wonderful journey this turned out to be

  3. says:

    I really enjoyed this book after nearly giving up after the first chapter The characters came to life reminded me of Dorothy Whipple's ability to take the front off a house and let you look inside Interesting to see a slice of life in post war London Had to google what a 'rackman' was This is my favourite Stella Gibbons yet was so g

  4. says:

    An odd little book but a classy bit of writing none the less The observation the sharpness in the writing is second to none SG is a lesson in

  5. says:

    I really thoroughly enjoyed this novel from Stella Gibbons which was undeservedly out of print for many years before Vintage brought it back for us It is fair to say that it is uite a strange dark novel rather different to Cold Comfort Farm

  6. says:

    Stella Gibbons has the reputation of being a one hit wonder Cold Comfort Farm both immortalised her name but also overshadowed everything else she ever wrote A few years ago Vintage decided that this was terribly unfair and decided to re issue her back catalogue I had a go at Westwood given that Lynn Truss claimed that it was the Persuasion to Cold Comfort's Pride and Prejudice but alas I found it a bit grim at the tim

  7. says:

    I was thrilled to find out that Vintage Classics is reprinting some Gibbons and rushed to buy several from UK I had only read Cold Comfort Farm of course hilarious and easily her best known book and Nightingale Wood a charming slightly satirical Cinderella story which Virago reprinted a couple of years ago Starlight is very different from both of those in plot and setting but shares the same keen eye for social class di

  8. says:

    I just finished reading Starlight and am feeling a bit gobsmacked I had only read Cold Comfort Farm and Westwoood so was really not expecting what this book delivered In fact I might not have read it at all had I known about the plot beforehand Like a couple of the book's characters I'm not into creepy other than the CCF kind Stella Gibbons was a talented writer than I had realized because I was not at all put off by th

  9. says:

    I stayed up way past my bedtime to finish off this book which is the best compliment you can give a book Full review later

  10. says:

    Starlight is three unrelated ideas in search of a book It's occasionally funny it's by Stella Gibbons after all but it is

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