This novel is a story narrated by Mrs. Agnes "Nancy" Hawkins, who is looking back in time and telling the story of her years in postwar London. Mrs. Hawkins was a 28 year old war-widow, who lived in a small rooming house in the Kensington area.
"It was 1954. I was living in furnished rooms in a tall house in South Kensington. I was startled, some years ago, by a friend's referring to 'that rooming-house near South Kensington Underground you used to stay in'. Milly, the owner, would have denied indignantly that it was a rooming-house, but I suppose that is what it was."
Mrs. Hawkins described herself as:
"I was massive in size, strong-muscled, huge-bosomed, with wide hips, hefty long legs, a bulging belly and fat backside; I carried ample weight with my five-foot-six of height, and was healthy with it. "
As you might surmise, this book has many amusing, sometimes laugh-out-loud moments. The characters that Mrs. Hawkins interacts with both in her residence and her work are all eccentric in some ways. And Mrs. Hawkins felt that people felt safe with her because of her appearance and the people would then confide and trust her, so she tended to know more about her acquaintances than others would.
She became aware of things not being right at work and discovered some shady dealings going on. She also found that things were not right at her rooming-house with one of the tenants who was receiving anonymous, threatening letters. Of course, it was in her nature to try to resolve all of these issues.
One of my favorite parts of the book?
"It's easy to get thin. You eat and drink the same as always, only half....I offer this advice without fee; it is included in the price of this book."
And that is how Mrs. Hawkins became Nancy to others. She became thin and people viewed her in a different way.
The book is amusing, but not especially intriguing. I found reading about Ms. Sparks' life much more interesting! Ms. Sparks was born in 1918 in Edinburgh. Although her parents were Jewish and Presbyterian, she later converted to Catholicism. In 1937 she married Sidney Oswald Spark and had a son. They lived in Rhodesia at the time, but by 1940 she left her husband and son and returned to the UK. Her husband was manic depressive and abusive. They divorced. A Far Cry From Kensington is Ms. Sparks' most autobiographical novel.
Ms. Sparks worked in Intelligence during World War II, then began writing. She died in 2006. I read that