The Courtyard (by Marcia Willett)

I've been reading - and collecting - Marcia Willett's books for over ten years now. And as I don't yet have her two latest ones, I started re-reading them a couple of years ago. I thought I was very organised, first reading the Chadwick trilogy, and then all the rest, which tend to have one or two minor characters who appear in otherwise unrelated novels. I thought I'd read them in the order they were written, and arranged them on my shelves as well as keeping various notes of which ones I'd read.

So I must have been tired when I picked up this one from its shelf, because I had quite forgotten that I re-read 'The Courtyard' only fourteen months ago. I didn't actually realise that until about half-way through, although I was a bit surprised at how much I remembered of the book, thinking I had read it at least eight years ago.

It's a pleasant light read about a group of people who learn to cope together, with financial difficulties. There is some good charactersation; particularly with the quiet, reserved Nell and the similarly reserved elderly Gussie, who strike up an unexpected friendship at the start of the book. I loved Gussie's habit of chatting to God - out loud, usually - which nicely demonstrates the author's Chrisian stance without any hint of pushiness. And I liked the way that good deeds - however small - were shown to be rewarded in the long term in the most natural way.

There are some shocks in this novel, which I found that I remembered quite well. I was a little surprised, thinking I had only read this book once - and that eight or nine years ago. When I realised I actually re-read it in September last year, I was, instead, a little chastened to realise that I'd forgotten everything other than the main dramatic points! I couldn't remember at all what happened to Nell, for instance, until right before I reached the relevant section.

Very enjoyable women's fiction; no need at all to have read other books by Marcia Willett, but I'm glad I have since I like seeing glimpses into the lives of people who previously appeared in other novels. This one features Guy (although not his twin Giles) and also Gemma, with passing mention of their parents.

Still in print; recommended if you like this kind of book.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 18th November 2009

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