Nancy McKibben's Reviews > Constance Harding's (Rather) Startling Year: A Novel

Constance Harding's (Rather) Startling Year by Ceri Radford
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really liked it
bookshelves: humor, reviewed
Recommended for: Anglophiles; fans of P.G. Wodehouse

Constance Harding’s (Rather) Startling Year
By Ceri Radford

Constance Harding begins the year of 2008 with a blog, the suggestion of her son Rupert, who, the last time she phoned to tell him about her “ housekeeper’s blunders and the bellringer’s bunions” thought that his mother “might like to tell the World Wide Web all about it, rather than him. He is such a thoughtful boy.”

This observation is our introduction to the well-meaning but generally clueless Constance, the middle-aged mother of two grown children, Sophie and Rupert, and solicitor husband Jeffrey. I prefer my heroines to have a clue, but Constance manages to endear herself to the reader with her always generous interpretations of events that are obvious to everyone else. For example, noting her husband’s distracted air at breakfast:
Perhaps he is sad that it is time to return to work after the Christmas break, and that Sophie will be leaving for France soon. Or perhaps he is simply irritated by Natalia’s [the Lithuanian housekeeper] increasing slovenliness. Despite my reprimands, she keeps leaving her underwear to dry in his study, eschewing the foldaway rack I put in her room expressly for this purpose. Cluttered house, cluttered mind, I have always said. No wonder he looked so distracted. To make matters worse, the undergarments in question are made of some sort of unpleasant, black polyester material. I worry that they might melt and mark the radiators, which I had the handyman regloss only last autumn. I will have to have words with her again.
Blithely unaware of her husband’s cheating, Constance spends the year also oblivious that her son is gay, her daughter is running wild, and her colleague in bell-ringing is lusting after her while she fondly imagines she has successfully interested him in a formidable local spinster.

Eventually Constance’s ignorance comes to an end, and the author’s deft handling of her dawning awareness is another joy of the novel, which is very funny. I loved Constance, both in her ignorance and her enlightenment, and heartily recommend her - especially as a palate cleanser after you’ve finished reading something dark and angsty. With her proper English ways, Constance puts all the world into perspective.

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Reading Progress

December 9, 2013 – Started Reading
December 10, 2013 – Finished Reading
January 6, 2014 – Shelved
January 6, 2014 – Shelved as: humor
January 6, 2014 – Shelved as: reviewed

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