The Old Man's Birthday
Richmal Crompton's adult novels are an absolute delight and every bit as charming as her beloved Just William series. The Old Man's Birthday is both a nostalgic treat for fans of the gentler brand of interwar fiction, and a dry satire of British village life.
Matthew Rowston is turning ninety-five. A lovable rogue approaching his dotage, he has very little time for the high moral standards and rigid ideas of propriety espoused by his spinster daughter. Things get interesting when he invites his estranged son, the bright and lively Stephen, and his beautiful partner to his celebratory dinner. Over the course of the day, Matthew walks around the village, introducing the pair to his large and varied clan, from the aging Jolly-hockey sticks granddaughter who is considering a torrid affair of her own, to his elderly bookish bachelor son and the lovely great-granddaughter struggling to find her place in the world, doomed to work as a clerk in her dull and dismal father's firm. Teeming beneath the calm surface of village and family life, lies a whole world of secrets and desires, hopes and dreams.
Mrs Dalloway with a dash of dry humour, Mapp and Lucia with a slightly melancholy tone, this is the perfect heritage read for fans of 1930s fiction at its best.
One of her most skilful and delightful stories, plotted and carried out with astonishing precision
Miss Crompton's management of her novels excites one's admiration. Of Chedsy Place, for instance, we remarked on its excellence of construction, difficulties never being evaded, and here in The Old Man's Birthday this is even more apparent . . . It is all well and wittily, sometimes touchingly, done.