Thea's Parrot (by Marcia Willett)

I first came across Marcia Willett about ten years ago, and have gradually collected and read all her books. I last read some of the earlier ones about eight years ago and had almost forgotten what they were about, so recently I decided to re-read them, spread over several months, in the order they were written. This is because many of them share characters - they're not sequels, as such, but draw on minor characters in previous books, and refer back to events from earlier novels.

I re-read 'Those who Serve' a couple of months ago, and this weekend I re-read the second book in the series, 'Thea's Parrot', which I first read in August 2000.

It's primarily the story of Thea, a young and fairly bohemian woman in her twenties, who falls in love with George, a rather older man. Unfortunately George is rather tangled up with Felicity (a story told in the earlier novel) whose husband died recently. Felicity hopes that George will marry her, but he has no wish to do so... so he conducts his romance with Thea rather quietly, and marries her within six months of meeting.

Felicity is furious, and determines to destroy their marriage. Meanwhile, Thea inherits a friendly and very talkative parrot called Percy, and - while worried about the stage of her marriage - decides to write a children's book that features him.

The first part of the book deals with this plot, ending with a shocking (though not unexpected) climax, and a positive future for Thea.

Then the book changes to a plot primarily centred around Polly, a good friend of Thea's, who is not-very-happily married to an insect researcher. Polly goes to stay with friends, ends up baby-sitting for other friends when they have to go to hospital, and is snow-bound.

There's high drama for a few chapters, almost melodrama, as phone lines are down and Polly doesn't know what is going on around her... then that's all resolved, as are various other situations that arose through the book. I found I did remember the melodramatic part of the plot although as it has nothing to do with Thea or her parrot, I had quite forgotten it was part of this book!

I enjoyed re-reading this; there were one or two moving moments, and a lot of excitement. Having read 'Those who Serve' so recently I remembered many of the characters who appeared in it - this is set about three years after it ends - but this book might be a bit confusing to anyone who had not read the previous one.

I don't find the characters as real or sympathetic as those of some other writers, but I found I could fairly easily remember who was who, and I did rather like both Thea and Polly.

Not always in print, but fairly widely available second-hand. Recommended, particularly if you've read 'Those who Serve'.

Review copyright © Sue's Book Reviews, 26th May 2008. All rights reserved.

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