Last summer I read Barbara Trapido's novel Brother of the More Famous Jack. I liked that one, so when the same blogger (here) recently wrote about another of her novels, Temples of Delight, I immediately put it on hold at my library. The copy they sent is a signed First Edition, but well read and rather ratty.
Temples of Delight reminded me of a combination of I Capture the Castle and The Sterile Cuckoo. Why? I'm not sure. I haven't read The Sterile Cuckoo since I plucked it from the under-the-desk reserved-for-adults shelf at the public library I volunteered at when I was a young teen.
Jem McCrail appears in the doorway of the girls school Alice Pillings attends, dragging a canvas tool bag, wearing scuffed shoes. She's tall and she's different. She's a bookish girl who loves music and writes stories. Her name is Veronica Bernadette, but she says she's called 'Jem' from 'jem-sengwiches' in P. G. Wodehouse. You have to love that.
Alice is from a well-to-do family and stutters. Jem tells Alice about her family, but Alice never gets to meet them. Her father, Jem says, is a 'man of letters'. Then, one day, Jem leaves school. She doesn't write to Alice, even though she's promised, and when Alice tries to find her, she discovers that the address Jem gave is a derelict, abandoned house.
Alice continues to try to find Jem, but her efforts fail. Alice goes on to Oxford, she rents a room from a wacky but endearing family, she almost gets engaged, she's in an auto accident, and another man enters her life. When she discovers that someone has stolen one of Jem's novels and it's about to get published, she sets out to avenge the theft and to make sure Jem gets the credit. Yet another man enters her life. She finally receives a letter from Jem and goes to find out what has become of her.
I loved this book even more than the previous one. It's strange, quirky, rich with characters and odd events.