No More Meadows

by: Monica Dickens   first published in 1953

No More MeadowsTimes are changed with him who marries; there are no more bypath meadows where you may innocently linger, but the road lies long and straight and dusty to the grave.’ So wrote Robert Louis Stevenson. Christine feels bound to agree. ‘My wife can do anything,’ Vinson says. Struggling to comply with this statement, Christine has to adjust to life in America, whilst catering to Vinson’s idea of a good spouse. She must force a sycophantic smile for the wife of Admiral Hamer (who wears patent-leather shoes like bananas) in an effort to ease his promotion. There must be a cold Turkey and a cold ham at every party and she must suffer her ridiculous mother-in-law. Bitter arguments are relieved by bleak silences. As the realities of married life wash away her rosy dream of it, Christine begins to wonder if Vinson is really what she wants.

No More Meadows unravels the threads of a very real marriage. Full of her inimitable warmth and sense of idiosyncratic character, Monica Dickens explores Christine’s heart-warming – and at times heart-breaking – search for happiness.

My copy is a Mermaid Book, published by Michael Joseph/Purnell & Sons. I have three of these lovely little books, all Monica Dickens books. I’ve read Thursday Afternoons already and still have My Turn to Make the Tea to read. You can read about Mermaid Books here. They are small, laminated cardboard books, sometimes referred to as limpbacks.

I always enjoy Monica Dickens books. She writes characters very well, I’m always immediately invested in them. This story about an English girl who marries an American Navy Officer and moves to America shortly after the war, England still had rationing going on, was a nice look at some of our differences. Christine and Vinson were as different people as the US and England are as countries. She came from a gregarious, loving, argumentative family and a house full of animals. He came from a divorced family that wasn’t close at all, in fact went years without seeing each other. I’ve never read a book that had both such a sad and happy ending at the same time. I was taken by surprise at the ending of this one.

Thursday Afternoons

by Monica Dickens
first published in 1945

FullSizeRender-4‘Successful, admired, fairly happily married and ambitious, Steven Sheppard is very much a pillar of the community. But inside him lurks a little demon of boredom which prompts him to ask if there isn’t more to life than this.’

My first Monica Dickens book. A little slow to start, but before I knew it I was reeled into these peoples lives in the hospital and medical clinics! A simple straightforward story centered around charismatic Dr. Steven Sheppard and his practice and his Thursday afternoons as Honorary Physician at St. Margaret hospital. Set in 1939 with impending war the main topic of conversation. Dr. Sheppard is successful, well liked and sought after yet he feels put upon and that something is lacking. Life should offer him more. Maybe if he only had more time to himself it would improve. Maybe he could that book he’s been working on finished. Maybe if he enlists in the Navy for the war and gets stationed on a ship out to sea he might have time to himself.

Full of lovely characters…
Ruth, his over dependent wife
Nurse Lake, madly in love with the doctor and prone to wild fantastic daydreams about him and her!
Young Potter, practicing to be a doctor under Dr. Sheppard
Marion Marshall (the woman Dr. Sheppard should have married) and her husband George
Mrs. Garrard and her son Tom, hiding from an abusive husband, now a maid in his house
Stephanie, his friend the publisher’s secretary and his new girlfriend
Lots of wonderful patients and last but not least, Ugly the dog and Dr. Sheppards best pal!

The ending was very dramatic and very surprising! To abrupt and left me feeling very unsatisfied with the read. I’m not sure why she ended it this way and it will give me pause for thought for sometime I think. Have you read it and what did you think of the ending? I will definitely read more of her books though, I liked her way with words. Here’s a couple little samples of why …

‘As Steven was getting the car out of the garage, with Ugly shouting directions from the back seat,”

‘The outer door opened and a tall man with untidy grey hair and thick-rimmed spectacles came in. His mouth had spoken so many millions of words in its day that it was a flexible as old machinery belting.”

My copy is a Mermaid Book published in 1954. I had never come across one of these type books before and it was one of the main reasons I picked it up. It is a board type book put out by publisher Michael Joseph. I can’t find anything about them online. This is what is printed in the front of the book ..

Mermaid Books
During the last few years a new delight in brightness and color has emerged – a delight which deserves to grow and prosper. To catch this spirit for book production is one of the aims of Mermaid Books. The literary quality of the books themselves is naturally always the decisive factor: but the conviction behind the production of Mermaid Books is that books at a low price can look more attractive, more colorful, without sacrifice of dignity or durability. This conviction has been amply confirmed by the warm welcome given to the titles published so far.

Have you every came across one of these books? Have you read any Monica Dickens and which one would you recommend?