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Review Westwood or The Gentle Powers

Westwood or The Gentle Powers

Set in wartime London Westwood tells the story of Margaret Steggles a plain bookish girl whose mother has told her that she is not the type that attracts men Her schoolfriend Hilda has a sunny temp. Cold Comfort Farm is one of my most reread books but Westwood was Stella Gibbons own favourite among her novels It s darker and pointedly feminist set in wartime proper rather than a fictionalised near future 1940s and provides a fascinating minor key mirror to CCF Margaret is almost an anti Flora Poste the outsider drawn in not to sort everyone out but to be dazzled and tossed about and frankly exploited echoes of Flora in the magnificently impervious Hilda and fundamentally frivolous flapper Seraphina too And the insufferably pretentious misogynistic playwright Challis Mybug gets bumped to major character provides Gibbons opportunity for much delicious stabbinessHe knew that his plays were good each one better than its predecessor Mountain Air the one about six women botanists and a male guide isolated in a snowstorm in a hut on the Andes had been surer in its approach and handling than his first one The Hidden Well which concerned the seven men and one female nurse on the tsetse fly research station while Katt dealt with an Austrian woman who was bandied about by the officers of a crack regiment in Vienna and was he felt convinced his masterpieceHe had wrought for himself a strikingly distinguished style It was difficult to describe but he himself had not demurred when one admirer had coined for it the phrase a style of iron and shadows He always wrote obliuely of people s personal charms making a man say to a woman Your throat is a taut chord or Your ankle bone is softly moulded

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Erament and keeps her service boys 'ever so cheery' When Margaret finds a ration book on Hampstead Heath the pompous writer Gerard Challis enters both their lives Margaret slavishly adores Challis. I really enjoyed this book it tells the story of two friends Margaret and Hilda and of their lives and those people who they meet during the Second World War However it is not a blow by blow account of life day to day about the interactions between people and how those relationships go on to either mean something or do notThis book was written after the war in the mid 1940 s and that is reflected in the style of writing Margaret is an interesting character who does tend to dissect her social interactions long after they have happened Hilda however is very easy going and light hearted During the story they both meet the same person but each have a very different relationship with him both wanting from him what the other has but never confiding in one another about thisI would recommend this book but would say that it is neither fast moving or an in depth story I think that it needs to be taken on face value as a study of the different types of character and how they deal with everyday relationships A uietly understated book Cenote meet during the Second World War However it is not a blow by blow account of life day to day about the interactions between people and how those relationships go on to either Sottomissione mean something or do notThis book was written after the war in the Dragon Age: Hard in Hightown mid 1940 s and that is reflected in the style of writing Margaret is an interesting character who does tend to dissect her social interactions long after they have happened Hilda however is very easy going and light hearted During the story they both The Isles meet the same person but each have a very different relationship with him both wanting from him what the other has but never confiding in one another about thisI would recommend this book but would say that it is neither fast KING moving or an in depth story I think that it needs to be taken on face value as a study of the different types of character and how they deal with everyday relationships A uietly understated book

Stella Gibbons · 2 Summary

And his artistic circle; Challis idolises Hilda for her hair and her eyes and Hilda finds Gerard's romantic overtures a bit of a bind This is a delightfully comic and wistful tale of love and longi. The plot is minimal there is much telling not showing and too many authorial interruptions but my gosh the characters they are fabulous Margaret the plain sensible one who nonetheless longs for beauty truth art something than the tedious suburban life with her tedious suburban mother her BFF Hilda the opposite of Margaret who thinks nothing of beauty or art and just wants to have fun with service men on leave without ever risking her future marriage prospectsThat s the side of the suburbs On the bohemian side up in Hamstead are the Challises and the Niland artists writers self servers uite monstrous is Hebe the spoilt daughter who unloads her children onto any passing person and instead of being grateful to Margaret for looking after them tells her a story about her parents and grandparents and justifies it to herself I thought it would do instead of thanking her If she was alive nowadays she s be called Poppy and would be Chelsea tractoring her way round Primrose Hill in her Lululemon yoga pants and always turning up late for the childminderMost monstrous of all if Gerald Challis Hebe s father He is apparently based on Charles Morgan a now forgotten writer who didn t believe writing should or could be humorous He falls for Hilda and writes her into his new play as a tragedian a character who kills herself because men keep falling for her whilst never really understanding anything about women If he was alive now he d still be unaware of his misogyny How can I hate women My wife is oneAlthough Gibbons was satirising the way male writers portray female characters in their fiction way before it was fashionable to do so the book is hardly feminist marriage is still the aim of women with a career being only a stop gap until that goal is met Margaret finds happiness through self sacrifice and child care of other people s childrenThe war apart from destroying the Nilands cottage doesn t really touch these characters there s rationing and air raids but lives and loves go on as before The one thing Gibbons moots is that books and plays about art and death belong to the time before the war that common sense and cheeriness much like Flora Poste is Cold Comfort Farm is what is needed during times of war


10 thoughts on “Westwood or The Gentle Powers

  1. says:

    If Cold Comfort Farm was a high point of a peculiar kind of class based English humour then this is the low point

  2. says:

    Cold Comfort Farm is one of my most reread books but Westwood was Stella Gibbons' own favourite among her novels It's darker and pointedly feminist set in wartime proper rather than a fictionalised near future 1940s and provides a fascinating minor key mirror to CCF Margaret is almost an anti Flora Poste the outsider drawn in not t

  3. says:

    From BBC Radio 4 ExtraIn 1943 bomb hit London teacher Margaret Steggles falls under the spell of the wealthy Challis family Episode 2

  4. says:

    Stella Gibbons is now really only known for one novel her first Cold Comfort Farm It would be easy to dismiss her as a one hit wonder but she actually wrote over 20 books and Westwood published in 1946 was largely believed to be Gib

  5. says:

    I really enjoyed this book it tells the story of two friends Margaret and Hilda and of their lives and those people who they meet during the Second World War However it is not a blow by blow account of life day to day about the interactions between people and how those relationships go on to either mean something or do n

  6. says:

    I was surprised to read a couple of negative reviews of this book as I absolutely loved it although its 30 years since I read Cold Comfort Farm so in that respect I can't make a comparison There are wonderful social observations and some very

  7. says:

    I am a little puzzled by this novel which is very different to Cold Comfort Farm and seuels the only other Stella Gibbons I’ve read ‘Westwood’ at times reads like an arch and witty satire but at others like a depressing family m

  8. says:

    I like the blurb on the edition I read Stella Gibbons is the Austen of the 20th centuryIt's great to see she seems to be having a come back with her other books and won't just be remembered for the brilliant Cold Comfort Farm

  9. says:

    The plot is minimal there is much telling not showing and too many authorial interruptions but my gosh the characters they are fabulous Margaret the plain sensible one who nonetheless longs for beauty truth art something than the tedious suburban life with her tedious suburban mother; her BFF Hilda the opposite of Margaret who thinks nothin

  10. says:

    This is good and some of the sarcastic bits about the very annoying Mr Challis are very funny but it's no Cold

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