‘The Happy Foreigner’ by Enid Bagnold ****
The Happy Foreigner is another lovely little Virago, and it is one which I have been most looking forward to, especially since reading Enid Bagnold’s intelligent and adorable novel The Squire in a beautiful Persephone reprint last year.
This novella is set in the aftermath of war, and begins just after ‘The war had stopped’. The protagonist of the piece is Fanny, who is in Paris when the story opens, and soon finds herself travelling to a rural part of France. She has travelled to France to ‘drive for the French Army’. The sense of place and time which Bagnold has crafted feels astonishingly real. It is a sweeping and beautifully written story, and the descriptions throughout are stunning. Bagnold is an author who certainly deserves to be read more widely, and from both a social and historical perspective, The Happy Foreigner is a marvellous read.
‘Monsieur Pamplemousse Hits the Headlines’ by Michael Bond ***
I was endeared to purchasing this when placing an online order with The Works at the start of the year for three reasons: the name of the book’s hero, the fact that it is written by Michael Bond, who created my beloved Paddington Bear, and the fact that it was priced rather cheaply. I wasn’t sure what to expect from it, but I hoped that it would be both witty and charming, just like the Paddington books.
Monsieur Pamplemousse Hits the Headlines is set in one of my favourite cities, Paris, and Bond certainly builds up the sense of place well. The main way in which he does so is through the medium of food. Monsieur Aristide Pamplemousse – who works for ‘Le Guide’, a ‘gastronomic bible’ in France, and who has a trusty companion in the guise of a dog named Pommes Frites – is given a free ticket to a cookery show, Cuisine de Chavignol. Whilst he is watching the demonstration, Monsieur Chavignol, the host of the show, is poisoned by a cyanide-laden oyster and drops dead. Monsieur Pamplemousse takes it upon himself to solve the crime.
The book is nicely written, but the mystery was not a stunning one, and nor was it particularly intriguing for the mostpart. Monsieur Chavignol was portrayed in such a way that one did not really care, nor even seem surprised, that he was targeted by a killer. Monsieur Pamplemousse Hits the Headlines is the fourth book in the series (something which I did not know when I purchased it), and I do not think that I got the full benefit from the book’s story by reading it before the others. Parts of it felt a little flat, and at times elements went unexplained, which I can only presume had been outlined in preceding books. It is not a series which I am overly enamoured with the idea of continuing, sadly. It is not a bad novel by any means, but it did not hold much interest for me personally. I did enjoy Bond’s writing, however, so it has received a wholesome three star review.