Richmal Crompton's adult novels are an absolute delight and every bit as charming as her beloved Just William series. The Old Man's Birthday is both a nostalgic treat for fans of the gentler brand of interwar fiction, and a dry satire of British village life.
Matthew Rowston is turning ninety-five. A lovable rogue approaching his dotage, he has very little time for the high moral standards and rigid ideas of propriety espoused by his spinster daughter. Things get interesting when he invites his estranged son, the bright and lively Stephen, and his beautiful partner to his celebratory dinner. Over the course of the day, Matthew walks around the village, introducing the pair to his large and varied clan, from the aging Jolly-hockey sticks granddaughter who is considering a torrid affair of her own, to his elderly bookish bachelor son and the lovely great-granddaughter struggling to find her place in the world, doomed to work as a clerk in her dull and dismal father's firm. Teeming beneath the calm surface of village and family life, lies a whole world of secrets and desires, hopes and dreams.
Mrs Dalloway with a dash of dry humour, Mapp and Lucia with a slightly melancholy tone, this is the perfect heritage read for fans of 1930s fiction at its best.
Richmal Crompton (1890-1969) is best known for her thirty-eight books featuring William Brown, which were published between 1922 and 1970. Born in Lancashire, Crompton won a scholarship to Royal Holloway in London, where she trained as a schoolteacher, graduating in 1914, before turning to writing full-time in 1923. Alongside the William novels, Crompton wrote forty-one novels for adults, as well as nine collections of short stories.