Monday, January 13, 2014
Long-Awaited Reads Month: Miss Hargreaves
If you've followed Simon Thomas' blog for any amount of time, you'll have probably noticed him mentioning Miss Hargreaves by Frank Baker. Well, mentioning is a bit of an understatement ... peddling, singing the praises of, extolling ... those might be better word choices. (There are, in fact, over 15 references and posts about the book on his blog!) And so, dutifully, I grabbed the book as soon as I saw it on the used shelves at my local indie. Then, as so often happens with highly anticipated books, it sat on my shelves because I was nervous about reading it and not having it live up to expectations. Luckily, Long-Awaited Reads Month inspired me to finally pick it up.
Norman Huntley and his friend Henry are on a trip when they decide to visit a local church. When inside, they are less than impressed by the building so they start having a little fun. Part of this fun is to invent the elderly Miss Hargreaves, friend of the former vicar, poet and musician, owner of a parrot and a portable bath. They take the joke a bit too far and actually write a letter to the fictional Miss Hargreaves and are utterly surprised to receive a letter back, stating that she is on her way to visit her "dear Norman" at his home. Norman and Henry now have to figure out why Miss Hargreaves exists and if there's anything they can do to change that (or if they even want to).
First, I need to thank Simon for championing this book. I'm not sure I would have picked it up otherwise. And if I hadn't, I would have missed a unique and thoughtful read full of magic and humor. My favorite character was actually Norman's father, a somewhat scattered but intelligent man whose ramblings sometimes turned out to be timely advice. And the thought that one's imaginings could become reality if you were the right kind of person is, well, enticing but still frightening. I think the only thing that kept me from completely loving the book was my inability to understand Norman's attraction (not in that way) toward Miss Hargreaves, even when she was at her most infuriating. I guess the relationship was guided by values both British and 1940s-ish that I just couldn't quite relate to. Still, the quality of the story and the writing was enough to make this an exceptionally amusing and thought-provoking read. I do hope that it finds many more readers and that Simon continues to be its biggest cheerleader!
Awaiting the next stellar read,