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10 thoughts on “Westwood or The Gentle Powers

  1. says:

    If Cold Comfort Farm was a high point of a peculiar kind of class based English humour then this is the low point of an author who hits you on the head with her absolutely humourless opinions on class beauty and stupid women This is so bad it leaves you wondering how anyone this awful actually had it in them to write a masterpieceThe only thing that stuck with me was Lady Pronounces on Everything saying to the extremely good extremely plain and unbelievably stupid heroine that because of her unfortunate looks she might never get married and might have to do the most difficult thing on earth learn to live without loveOh dear This review aims to be really helpful and save you time money and tedium I wish I hadn't had to go through it


  2. says:

    Cold Comfort Farm is one of my most reread books but Westwood was Stella Gibbons' own favourite among her novels It's darker and pointedly feminist set in wartime proper rather than a fictionalised near future 1940s and provides a fascinating minor key mirror to CCF Margaret is almost an anti Flora Poste the outsider drawn in not to sort everyone out but to be dazzled and tossed about and frankly exploited echoes of Flora in the magnificently impervious Hilda and fundamentally frivolous flapper Seraphina too And the insufferably pretentious misogynistic playwright Challis Mybug gets bumped to major character provides Gibbons opportunity for much delicious stabbinessHe knew that his plays were good; each one better than its predecessor Mountain Air the one about six women botanists and a male guide isolated in a snowstorm in a hut on the Andes had been surer in its approach and handling than his first one The Hidden Well which concerned the seven men and one female nurse on the tsetse fly research station while Kattë dealt with an Austrian woman who was bandied about by the officers of a crack regiment in Vienna and was he felt convinced his masterpieceHe had wrought for himself a strikingly distinguished style It was difficult to describe but he himself had not demurred when one admirer had coined for it the phrase 'a style of iron and shadows'He always wrote obliuely of people's personal charms making a man say to a woman 'Your throat is a taut chord' or 'Your ankle bone is softly moulded'


  3. says:

    From BBC Radio 4 ExtraIn 1943 bomb hit London teacher Margaret Steggles falls under the spell of the wealthy Challis family Episode 2Teacher Margaret Steggles wonders if pompous playwright Gerald Challis really is the man of her dreamsStars Juliet Aubreyhttpwwwbbccoukprogrammesb01322b0


  4. says:

    Stella Gibbons is now really only known for one novel her first Cold Comfort Farm It would be easy to dismiss her as a one hit wonder but she actually wrote over 20 books and Westwood published in 1946 was largely believed to be Gibbons' own personal favourite I've left it a couple of days since finishing this novel before writing a review as I initially didn't know what to make of it Margaret a young school teacher moves to London with her parents during the war years The novel tells the story of her meeting with Gerard Challis a renowned playwright who happens in a separate plot thread to have developed a passion for Margaret's friend Hilda although neither woman is aware of the other's involvement with Challis Thus develops a gentle comedy of errors and manners The fundamental problem with the novel is that Gibbons has filled it so full with oddities and grotesues that's it's difficult to identify or sympathize with any individual character Margaret the ostensible heroine is very hard to like at times as she allows herself to be used and abused by the monstrous Challis family for the perceived honour of being close to them and part of their intimate circle Additionally for a novel with is so definitely set during the war years in London it seems strange that the war is mentioned so infreuently and none of the characters seem particularly touched by the larger events occurring at the time although Margaret does have a brother who is enlisted and called up during the book However in spite of these criticisms it is a warm and witty novel which I am growing much fonder of in hindsight Gibbons is a very honest writer and she doesn't cheat her readership with unrealistic conclusions There are wonderful descriptive passages concerning the borough of Highgate and the changing seasons are well evoked It's a shame that Gibbons has seemingly fallen out of favour with publishers for so long but this novel along with a few others have been reprinted by Vintage so maybe the time is right for a revival of interest in this little known author


  5. says:

    I really enjoyed this book it tells the story of two friends Margaret and Hilda and of their lives and those people who they meet during the Second World War However it is not a blow by blow account of life day to day about the interactions between people and how those relationships go on to either mean something or do notThis book was written after the war in the mid 1940's and that is reflected in the style of writing Margaret is an interesting character who does tend to dissect her social interactions long after they have happened Hilda however is very easy going and light hearted During the story they both meet the same person but each have a very different relationship with him both wanting from him what the other has but never confiding in one another about thisI would recommend this book but would say that it is neither fast moving or an in depth story I think that it needs to be taken on face value as a study of the different types of character and how they deal with everyday relationships A uietly understated book


  6. says:

    I was surprised to read a couple of negative reviews of this book as I absolutely loved it although its 30 years since I read Cold Comfort Farm so in that respect I can't make a comparison There are wonderful social observations and some very funny passages I disagree with some reviews on that all of the characters are unsympathetic They all have their unattractive sides which the author makes a point of showing us but that unfortunately is humam nature The central character also changes throughout the book and is much of a complete person by the end There is a also a real wise woman in the character of Lady Challis I think the introduciton of the Downes Syndrome child was actually uite innovative for the time and as the narrator seems to education her to a certain extent the author may well have been making a point through this The only thing that did jar slightly with me was the way the foreign accents were written but overall this book was a joy to read


  7. says:

    I am a little puzzled by this novel which is very different to Cold Comfort Farm and seuels the only other Stella Gibbons I’ve read ‘Westwood’ at times reads like an arch and witty satire but at others like a depressing family melodrama The Second World War during which it is set is entirely incidental My favourite example of the satirical bent ‘The play was called In Autumn; it was about a woman who was described by her friends as “corrupt yet fiery” a sort of compost heap and bonfire in one but not so useful as either’The book was at its most powerful and acerbic when adopting the point of view of Gerald Challis playwright His portrayal was a believable albeit sometimes shocking portrait of a well bred well off utterly arrogant man I winced at the truth of this ‘Like most seekers for an ideal woman he did not really like women believing that they disappointed and failed him on purpose’ The majority of characters are women however including our ostensible protagonist the unfortunately named Margaret Steggles I sympathised with her as she seemed to personify the plight of academically minded women at the time Throughout the novel she yearns for interesting conversation artistic experiences and kindred spirits By the end she has been repeatedly disappointed and told by various older characters that she can either expect to get married or become a religiously obsessed spinster Neither prospect attracts her I wanted her to know that the life she wishes for could be found in studying at university although that wouldn’t become a likely prospect for a lower middle class girl until decades later Thus Gibbons seems to have drawn attention to the sad plight of a single woman but I couldn’t determine whether she was trying to make that wider social point Maybe? But all the usual 1940s sexism racism and ableism was present tooThis novel is fluidly written but not that much actually happens I felt that it neither went deep into the protagonist’s soul as The Rector's Daughter does nor really pursued a wider family drama angle Thus it was ultimately rather unsatisfying despite contained elements that definitely merit recommendation


  8. says:

    I like the blurb on the edition I read Stella Gibbons is the Austen of the 20th centuryIt's great to see she seems to be having a come back with her other books and won't just be remembered for the brilliant Cold Comfort Farm


  9. says:

    The plot is minimal there is much telling not showing and too many authorial interruptions but my gosh the characters they are fabulous Margaret the plain sensible one who nonetheless longs for beauty truth art something than the tedious suburban life with her tedious suburban mother; her BFF Hilda the opposite of Margaret who thinks nothing of beauty or art and just wants to have fun with service men on leave without ever risking her future marriage prospectsThat's the side of the suburbs On the bohemian side up in Hamstead are the Challises and the Niland artists writers self servers uite monstrous is Hebe the spoilt daughter who unloads her children onto any passing person and instead of being grateful to Margaret for looking after them tells her a story about her parents and grandparents and justifies it to herself “I thought it would do instead of thanking her If she was alive nowadays she's be called Poppy and would be Chelsea tractoring her way round Primrose Hill in her Lululemon yoga pants and always turning up late for the childminderMost monstrous of all if Gerald Challis Hebe's father He is apparently based on Charles Morgan a now forgotten writer who didn't believe writing should or could be humorous He falls for Hilda and writes her into his new play as a tragedian a character who kills herself because men keep falling for her whilst never really understanding anything about women If he was alive now he'd still be unaware of his misogyny How can I hate women? My wife is oneAlthough Gibbons was satirising the way male writers portray female characters in their fiction way before it was fashionable to do so the book is hardly feminist – marriage is still the aim of women with a career being only a stop gap until that goal is met Margaret finds happiness through self sacrifice and child care of other people's childrenThe war apart from destroying the Nilands' cottage doesn't really touch these characters there's rationing and air raids but lives and loves go on as before The one thing Gibbons moots is that books and plays about art and death belong to the time before the war that common sense and cheeriness much like Flora Poste is Cold Comfort Farm is what is needed during times of war


  10. says:

    This is good and some of the sarcastic bits about the very annoying Mr Challis are very funny but it's no Cold Comfort Farm It's unfortunate when someone's first book is so much successful than all their others She's a good writer though and this is very interesting from a setting point of view as it's post Blitz but before the doodlebug raids and you don't often get a book set in the war I think it was written in 1946 where the war is obviously going on but not really the focus of any of the main characters despite various very much war related incidents


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CHARACTERS Ç THISISWHYYOUREFESTIVE.CO.UK ↠ Stella Gibbons

Erament and keeps her service boys 'ever so cheery' When Margaret finds a ration book on Hampstead Heath the pompous writer Gerard Challis enters both their lives Margaret slavishly adores Challis Stella Gibbons is now really only known for one novel her first Cold Comfort Farm It would be easy to dismiss her as a one hit wonder but she actually wrote over 20 books and Westwood published in 1946 was largely believed to be Gibbons' own personal favourite I've left it a couple of days since finishing this novel before writing a review as I initially didn't know what to make of it Margaret a young school teacher moves to London with her parents during the war years The novel tells the story of her meeting with Gerard Challis a renowned playwright who happens in a separate plot thread to have developed a passion for Margaret's friend Hilda although neither woman is aware of the other's involvement with Challis Thus develops a gentle comedy of errors and manners The fundamental problem with the novel is that Gibbons has filled it so full with oddities and grotesues that's it's difficult to identify or sympathize with any individual character Margaret the ostensible heroine is very hard to like at times as she allows herself to be used and abused by the monstrous Challis family for the perceived honour of being close to them and part of their intimate circle Additionally for a novel with is so definitely set during the war years in London it seems strange that the war is mentioned so infreuently and none of the characters seem particularly touched by the larger events occurring at the time although Margaret does have a brother who is enlisted and called up during the book However in spite of these criticisms it is a warm and witty novel which I am growing much fonder of in hindsight Gibbons is a very honest writer and she doesn't cheat her readership with unrealistic conclusions There are wonderful descriptive passages concerning the borough of Highgate and the changing seasons are well evoked It's a shame that Gibbons has seemingly fallen out of favour with publishers for so long but this novel along with a few others have been reprinted by Vintage so maybe the time is right for a revival of interest in this little known author Rebound Roommate (Men of Lake Tahoe Series, gentle comedy of errors and manners The fundamental problem with the novel is that Gibbons has filled it so full with oddities and Cure for the Loneliness grotesues that's it's difficult to identify or sympathize with any individual character Margaret the ostensible heroine is very hard to like at times as she allows herself to be used and abused by the monstrous Challis family for the perceived honour of being close to them and part of their intimate circle Additionally for a novel with is so definitely set during the war years in London it seems strange that the war is mentioned so infreuently and none of the characters seem particularly touched by the larger events occurring at the time although Margaret does have a brother who is enlisted and called up during the book However in spite of these criticisms it is a warm and witty novel which I am Bijoux en origami growing much fonder of in hindsight Gibbons is a very honest writer and she doesn't cheat her readership with unrealistic conclusions There are wonderful descriptive passages concerning the borough of Highgate and the changing seasons are well evoked It's a shame that Gibbons has seemingly fallen out of favour with publishers for so long but this novel along with a few others have been reprinted by Vintage so maybe the time is right for a revival of interest in this little known author

READ Westwood or The Gentle Powers

Westwood or The Gentle Powers

And his artistic circle; Challis idolises Hilda for her hair and her eyes and Hilda finds Gerard's romantic overtures a bit of a bind This is a delightfully comic and wistful tale of love and longi I am a little puzzled by this novel which is very different to Cold Comfort Farm and seuels the only other Stella Gibbons I’ve read ‘Westwood’ at times reads like an arch and witty satire but at others like a depressing family melodrama The Second World War during which it is set is entirely incidental My favourite example of the satirical bent ‘The play was called In Autumn; it was about a woman who was described by her friends as “corrupt yet fiery” a sort of compost heap and bonfire in one but not so useful as either’The book was at its most powerful and acerbic when adopting the point of view of Gerald Challis playwright His portrayal was a believable albeit sometimes shocking portrait of a well bred well off utterly arrogant man I winced at the truth of this ‘Like most seekers for an ideal woman he did not really like women believing that they disappointed and failed him on purpose’ The majority of characters are women however including our ostensible protagonist the unfortunately named Margaret Steggles I sympathised with her as she seemed to personify the plight of academically minded women at the time Throughout the novel she yearns for interesting conversation artistic experiences and kindred spirits By the end she has been repeatedly disappointed and told by various older characters that she can either expect to get married or become a religiously obsessed spinster Neither prospect attracts her I wanted her to know that the life she wishes for could be found in studying at university although that wouldn’t become a likely prospect for a lower middle class girl until decades later Thus Gibbons seems to have drawn attention to the sad plight of a single woman but I couldn’t determine whether she was trying to make that wider social point Maybe? But all the usual 1940s sexism racism and ableism was present tooThis novel is fluidly written but not that much actually happens I felt that it neither went deep into the protagonist’s soul as The Rector's Daughter does nor really pursued a wider family drama angle Thus it was ultimately rather unsatisfying despite contained elements that definitely merit recommendation Billy Connolly get married or become a religiously obsessed spinster Neither prospect attracts her I wanted her to know that the life she wishes for could be found in studying at university although that wouldn’t become a likely prospect for a lower middle class A Lil Less Broken (The Kingsmen MC, girl until decades later Thus Gibbons seems to have drawn attention to the sad plight of a single woman but I couldn’t determine whether she was trying to make that wider social point Maybe? But all the usual 1940s sexism racism and ableism was present tooThis novel is fluidly written but not that much actually happens I felt that it neither went deep into the protagonist’s soul as The Rector's Daughter does nor really pursued a wider family drama angle Thus it was ultimately rather unsatisfying despite contained elements that definitely merit recommendation

CHARACTERS Ç THISISWHYYOUREFESTIVE.CO.UK ↠ Stella Gibbons

Set in wartime London Westwood tells the story of Margaret Steggles a plain bookish girl whose mother has told her that she is not the type that attracts men Her schoolfriend Hilda has a sunny temp If Cold Comfort Farm was a high point of a peculiar kind of class based English humour then this is the low point of an author who hits you on the head with her absolutely humourless opinions on class beauty and stupid women This is so bad it leaves you wondering how anyone this awful actually had it in them to write a masterpieceThe only thing that stuck with me was Lady Pronounces on Everything saying to the extremely good extremely plain and unbelievably stupid heroine that because of her unfortunate looks she might never get married and might have to do the most difficult thing on earth learn to live without loveOh dear This review aims to be really helpful and save you time money and tedium I wish I hadn't had to go through it