Sunday, June 08, 2008

Beggar's Choice by Patricia Wentworth

First published 1931; cover shown is the 1990 Warner Books paperback edition. Cover art by Bob Scott. Cover design by Anne Twomey. 252p.

Wentworth interspersed first-person diary entries with straight third-person narrative in this glamorous late-1920s novel of social status, drugs, high intrigue and more twists and turns than you can poke a stick at.

In three long, lonely years Carthew Fairfax ('Car' to his friends) has gone from wealthy heir to impoverished gentleman, with no food in his stomach and barely any leather left on the soles of his shoes. Since the suicide death of his swindling employer, Car has been shunned by his friends and - through the machinations of his scheming cousin, Anna - disowned by his uncle.

When he is down to his last few pence, a piece of paper is shoved into his hand in the street. "Do want 500 pounds? If you do, and are willing to earn it, write to Box Z. 10, International Employment Exchange, 187 Falcon Street, N.W."

So begins a roller coaster of an adventure for Car, who soon meets up with the love of his life, the beautiful Isobel, and with Anna, who has many things in store for the man who once spurned her - and absolutely none of it is nice.

This was a little over the top in some places, but great escapism. I love how Wentworth took the time to describe little details - such as a woman's cocktail dress, or Car's first real meal in weeks. I really enjoyed this.

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