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The Eye of Love Hardcover – Large Print, July 15, 2004
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"A double-plotted masterpiece with a great deal of wit and not an ounce of sentimentality."
About the Author
Though she wrote twenty-six novels for adults, Margery Sharp (1905-91) is best known for her children's series, The Rescuers. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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This one features a romance between two very un-romance-novel-like characters. Which really makes the book all the more remarkable. Dorothy Hogg, self-styled as Dolores Diver, is a past-her-first-youth, painfully thin woman who, while attending the Chelsea Arts ball dressed as a Spanish dancer, meets Harold Gibson, a stout, middle-aged man dressed as a cardboard box. They soon became lovers. Harry set Dolores up in a modest little house in Alcock Road. Dolores' niece, Martha, an orphan, comes to live with her. Martha's only real interest is drawing items of geometric shapes - anything boxy, circular, triangular or cylindrical, from the tails of kippers in a jug to the gas range. Harry & Dolores have had a number of happy, uneventful years together.
Harry is forced to contemplate a convenient marriage due to his failing fur business (the novel is set during the Great Depression) and therefore, he is honor-bound to break off with Dolores and be faithful to his new fiancee. Both Dolores and Harry suffer greatly from this separation and the conflict of the book centers on whether or not they will ever have their HEA.
This book, like all of Ms. Sharp's books (at least that I've so far read) are written from that very British stiff-upper-lip, unsentimental viewpoint. You know, Keep Calm and Carry On. What is so remarkable to me is how sympathetically she describes these very unromantic, yet genuinely loving characters. The reader recognizes that observers would consider Harry and Dolores to be ridiculous as romantic figures, yet the book NEVER pokes fun at them; Ms. Sharp makes it clear that their love and regard for each other is genuine, regardless of their appearance. In other words, though they might be clownish in their appearance, their love is as sacred (to them, and should be to us) as that of Romeo and Juliet.
But this romance is almost secondary to the child, Martha, who has little interaction with other characters. Indeed, Martha actively avoids Harry and Dolores. Instead she spends most of her time drawing her shapes, and what conversations she does have is with local shopkeepers. She hides her drawings; only Harry's prospective father-in-law sees her work and recognizes her genuine talent and offers to sponsor her.
There are additional books about Martha after she is grown, and I'm looking forward to reading them.