This was one of the books from my 20 Books of Summer list, which I did actually read before the September deadline although I didn’t manage to post my review in time. First published in 1960, as the title suggests, it’s a light read.
Our heroine, Louisa Datchett, is a thirty-year-old single woman who lives alone in a tiny London flat – so tiny that she can ‘turn on a tap, fill a kettle, light a gas ring and reach down the coffee tin, all without moving her feet’. Louisa has never married, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t like men – she does like them and has plenty of male friends, all of whom have a habit of coming to her with their problems. In fact, she’s been so busy solving men’s problems that she has barely had time to think about herself – and there certainly hasn’t been time for any romance in her life.
Being a ‘modern’ woman, Louisa hasn’t previously felt that having a husband was in any way essential and has established a career for herself as a dog photographer. This unusual job has provided lots of interesting opportunities for Louisa, but she’s finding that it’s not a reliable way of paying the rent! One morning, having bought an extra yogurt from the milkman for the starving musician next door and worried about her friend, Hugo, who has bronchitis, it occurs to Louisa that it would be nice to have someone taking care of her for a change!
The rest of the book follows Louisa’s attempts to find a husband, each one more disastrous than the one before. First she sets her sights on Freddy Pennon, a wealthy older man whom she met the previous year in Cannes while photographing an Italian film star’s poodles. When this ends in failure, she decides that perhaps a steady, dependable man would be a better option – or maybe a widowed family man looking for a stepmother for his children. Fortunately, Louisa has enough sense to see that none of these relationships are likely to work…but just as she gives up hope of ever meeting a suitable husband, one appears where she had least expected to find him!
Louisa could be seen as quite a contradictory character; on the one hand she is an independent and capable woman who lives on her own and supports herself financially through work, while on the other she sets herself the old-fashioned goal of finding a husband no matter what. It also seems a bit unfair on the men she targets, who have no idea that they are being lined up for marriage. However, she goes about this in such a good-natured way, making sure nobody gets hurt by her actions, that you can’t help liking her and hoping she’ll get what she wants in the end.
The overall story is quite predictable and I could easily predict who Louisa would end up with as soon as he made his first appearance, but each separate episode in the novel has its own little twist, which keeps things interesting. This isn’t one of my favourite Margery Sharp books (so far that would be Britannia Mews or The Flowering Thorn) but it’s an entertaining read and sometimes ‘something light’ is just what you need.