Tuesday 26 June 2007


More holiday reading reports... One Pair of Feet by Monica Dickens was my second read from Dickens' canon, and a guaranteed success before I turned the first page. One Pair of Hands is one of my favourite reads of the year so far, and I had little doubt that the sequel would prove enjoyable.

The general consensus is that Feet is better than Hands - so JB Priestley announces on the blurb of my edition; so Elaine mentioned in comments on this blog a while ago. Sorry guys, going to have to disagree. I loved Feet, but just not as much as Hands - and this is almost entirely because I find the world of domestic service more interesting than that of nursing. Not more worthy or impressive - few people impress me more than nurses, not least because it's right up there on the lists of jobs I couldn't last a day at if my life depended on it - just even more fascinating. And, in Hands, Dickens went through lots of households, giving variety in character and situation; in Feet she could only change wards. Whichever of them is better, though, they are both excellent and laugh-out-loud funny. Oh dear, I'm becoming the worst sort of reviewer here... soon I'll be proclaiming "I laughed til I cried!" or "If you read one book this fall, make sure it's this one!" Will have to start counting - and limiting - the number of exclamation marks... but this quotation warrants one. ! There you go. It's a little mean on Dickens' part, but also rather funny:

"She looked like one of those potatoes that people photograph and send to the papers because it bears a curious resemblance to a human face."

You're a better person than I if you didn't laugh a little bit...


  1. I read this before I went into nursing and can't believe it didn't put me off and send me on the alternative trail which was the English degree at university!Still love the book for it's resonance of the old days and also Thursday Afternoons which is also by Monica Dickens, still about nurses but is absolutely priceless.

  2. I must have got muddled Simon because my favourite is the domestic service one - is that hands or feet...??????

  3. in case you are wondering who englituni is it is me, I had to open a new account as I could not access my other one for some weird reason. Elaine

  4. Have you read my Turn to Make the Tea? Have just discovered your blog, and am amazed that someone shares such similar reading habits - I am a Persephone book addict which has started me off on all sorts of different things.

  5. Thanks for your comment, Verity - I did read it after reading this. Not *quite* as good as the One Pair books, but definitely very good and fun.

  6. Her actual autobiography "An Open Book" also makes for interesting reading as you can see where she got her various ideas from. I'm a big fan of her novels too.

  7. That's the next Monica Dickens on my list!

    So, you're a Persephone addict - which are your favourites??

  8. I can lend it to you if you like (since actually we know each other - you'll find me in the college library most days :) ).

    Persephone wise, I just read The Far Cry and thought that that was my favourite so far. I did love cheerful weather for the wedding, Saplings and Family Roundabout (which I must have read in my first year at Oxford which is going back some!), Miss Pettigrew definitely, and a London Child of the 1870s (although that doesn't really count as I read it long before Persephone existed). Ditto Round About a Pound a Week which I came across as part of my degree.

    I've got a stack of them that I bought with birthday money at home which I am saving for a special treat. I'm particularly looking forward to Mariana (which is the only Monica Dickens I haven't now read) and Fortnight in September and Making Conversation.

    Phew, bet you wish you hadn't asked that question!

  9. Ahha, you're THAT Verity! Very nice to meet you on the internet as well as real life.

    I actually have a copy of An Open Book, thanks for the offer though.

    I always love hearing about Persephone-obsession - you mention a few I haven't read. I still haven't read Far Cry, though I did love Emma Smith's The Great Western Beach last year (if you do a search on the blog, it'll come up) - and Saplings I've had for about five years and still not read. Family Roundabout probably my favourite - well, I'd already read it, it was the book which led me to Persephone actually.

  10. Yes, I've read that, it was good.

    She's also written a couple of children's books, one of which I managed to get from the public library last week - No way of telling - which was very good. And I've just pre-ordered her biographical volume on Amazon "Maiden trip". I spend too much money on books even though I am a diligent library user.

    We have a couple of Persephone books in Magdalen, I think one of the Margaret Laski's and something else, which I bought for the English section! You should suggest more of them as we always buy student suggestions (just not library staff ones!).


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