REVIEW: Something Light: A Novel by Margery Sharp
In 1950s London, a career girl decides it’s high time she snared herself a husband.
Professional dog photographer Louisa Datchett is indiscriminately fond of men. And they take shocking advantage of her good nature when they need their problems listened to, socks washed, prescriptions filled, or employment found.
But by the age of thirty, Louisa is tired of constantly being dispatched to the scene of some masculine disaster. It’s all well and good to be an independent woman—and certainly better than a “timid Victorian wife”—but the time has come for her to marry, and marry well. With the admirable discipline and dedication she’s always displayed in any endeavor involving men, Louisa sets out on her own romantic quest.
Several years ago I first saw the movie “Cluny Brown” which is based on the novel written by Margery Sharp. I instantly adored it but had no idea it was based on a book. Of course I then wanted to read the book which lead me to buying several more Sharp novels. As with “Cluny Brown,” this book deals with England in changing times.
Louisa Datchett is a professional woman, supporting herself in 1960 London. But there’s something about Louisa that men batten onto. One glimpse of her and they feel they can lay all their problems at her feet. Since Louisa likes men and is good natured, she’s always willing to help.
She was constantly being either sent for, like a fire engine, or dispatched, like a lifeboat, to the scene of some masculine disaster; and fond of men as she was, by the time she was thirty she felt extremely jaded.
It is after expressing this to her milkman, and adding yet another day’s yogurt to her tab for the starving flautist next door, that Louisa decides she’s tired of looking after men and being a modern woman. It’s time she found a rich husband to look after her. From now on, Louisa is going to look after number one. Her first chance occurs shortly when a rich, older man she met while in Cannes on a job, contacts her. That’s the one, she thinks. Only it’s not quite what she fondly hopes. Still she gets some useful advice on getting a man.
Her next job is photographing the show dachshunds of a happily married couple. The job is a breeze and the wife offers the reason for her marital happiness as having the good fortune to marry a man with a steady job. Aha, thinks Louisa and casts her mind back to a boy from her past. After insuring that he’s a) single and b) owns his own business, she arranges to get back in touch with him. All seems to go swimmingly until she realizes that this isn’t going to work either. Plus she has to depress the importance of a fellow lodger whom her landlady keeps trying to puff up to her.
After another false start – and Louisa had been so sure of this one – she decides she’s had enough of trying to find a husband. She’s supported herself up until now and she’ll go on doing it. But there’s one last man who doesn’t need Louisa to be the one who does all the helping. Will she be willing to take one last chance …?
The book was published in 1960 and addresses the new world of working women but also in a way looks forward to the era that arrived after the 70s and 80s when some women decided that they didn’t want to work. I’ve always supported myself but several of my friends decided that they wanted to be house wives and mothers which I’m perfectly fine with. To each her own.
Louisa encounters all sorts – there’s the dainty woman who would have no idea of how to support herself, the happily married couple, the aristocrat who seems to think Louisa’s job is just a hobby, a father set in his father-knows-best ways and then the mystery man. Some may dislike Louisa for her determination to snag a man but I say “why not?” She’s done the independent woman thing and cheerfully put up with men relying on her for help – not as a martyr but just as a friend. Now she’s ready to be taken care of.
In each situation though, it’s Louisa who recognizes the truth of what is before her and why this situation won’t work. She could have pushed forward and got a husband each time but she’s honest enough and decent enough to pull back. I immediately pictured her as the actress Kay Kendall and ended up liking her a lot.
I noticed a difference in the author’s writing style between this book and the other two I’ve read which were written decades before. There are a lot of colons and semicolons in this book. I mean a lot. Once I got into the rhythm and flow of the writing, I was okay but it took me about a chapter. But Sharp’s subtle, British humor is still all over this one. B