Thursday, January 21, 2016

Chedworth - R. C. Sherriff

My friend Katrina and I have looked everywhere for a photo of this book and we haven't come up with anything.  The book in the photo is the copy I borrowed from my library, a very ratty edition with no jacket or pretty binding.  The title page is the best I can do.

I think I have one more of R. C. Sherriff's novels to read.  I know he wrote some plays and some very famous screenplays, but I'm not interested in reading those.  I've liked each of the books by him I've read.  I'm sorry there aren't more, but I'm grateful that my library had two and that I could download another of his as an e-book.

Wing Commander Sir Derek Chedworth, just back from flying at the front, goes to a musical revue in London with two of his friends.  During the performance, the theatre is shaken by nearby bombs, but the young woman on stage, Peggy Fortescue, keeps singing and dancing.  She's scared, but she focuses on one member of the audience, Chedworth, and sings just to him. 

After the show, he comes backstage to commend her for her bravery and compliment her on her talent.  Peggy finds him outside the theatre later, waiting for his driver, and she realizes that he's blind.  His plane came under fire and a piece of shrapnel pierced his skull.  There's a comedic interlude when he offers to drive her home and she tells him she's staying at the Dorchester, a very posh hotel  -  where he's also staying, much to her chagrin.  She really lives in a boarding house.  It's finally all straightened out and he asks her to have dinner with him.  And to marry him.  What a whirlwind romance!

She agrees and they go to his family home in Cornwall, Chedworth.  It's a huge estate, thousands of acres of fields and moor and farms, a huge house built of parts that are hundreds of years old.  Derek is the Lord of the Manor to the villagers.

Peggy soon realizes, though, that Chedworth is on its last legs.  The estate is broke financially and is physically broken down.  There has been no money for repairs.  Derek is proud and will not entertain discontinuing any of the charities he provides to the villagers.  The villagers think he's rich and expect the benefits bestowed on them by his wealthier ancestors.  He's been selling the manor's paintings, jewelry, and paintings.  Peggy wants to help, but he stubbornly refuses.

Derek wants to be part of the military again, but his blindness makes him non-eligible.  He's delighted when the air force wants build a field and operations center at Chedworth.  They want to buy Chedworth, which Peggy thinks will save them, but Derek won't sell.  He allows the government to build their facility on the land for a ridiculously low amount.

By the way, Derek is a lot older than Peggy.  When the airmen show up, they ask Peggy to help them put on a show.  They've discovered that she had been on the stage.  Working with the young airmen, Peggy and one of them get close.

There's drama, romance, descriptions of life in rural England at a crucial time for the country and for the relationship between the landed and the villagers under their care.  It's a good book and has something for almost everyone.


  1. It does sound good, Joan! I'll try to find a copy of one oh his books myself!

    1. I think they're worth looking for. They're all different. The Hopkins Manuscript is science fiction, but the kind I like, the kind that takes place on Earth. Greengates is about the difficulty of retirement. And this one is romance and about society in England. All very good, in my opinion.

  2. I've been looking around for his books but no luck, it looks like I might have to resort to the internet. It's so annoying that Fife libraries seem to have no older books in a reserve stock, I'm impressed that you've been able to borrow his books in Philly.

    1. Oh, dear. I hate to post about books that are hard to get. Because the author was British, I would think his books would be easier to find in the U. K. If all else fails, there is the Internet, as you say.