One of the perks of having an e-reader is access to e-books from Bloomsbury Reader, which publishes middlebrow classics by Monica Dickens, Lettice Cooper, and Norman Collins.
And so I have been bingeing on Angela Huth’s charming novels.
Huth is best-known for Land Girls, a delightful novel about three young women who work as land girls on an English farm as part of a program to replace male farm laborers who are away fighting in World War II.
Some of Huth’s novels are even more entertaining. I especially enjoyed Virginia Fly Is Drowning, a brilliant comedy about a 31-year-old virgin.
Virginia Fly, a teacher at a girls’ school, lives with her parents and is still a virgin at age 31. Although she is reasonably attractive, she has little social life and few prospects of meeting men. Occasionally she goes to concerts with an elderly music professor. She also has an American pen friend named Charles, who has promised to visit England.
Meanwhile, she has wild fantasies about meeting a beautiful young herdsman in a field of buttercups. He tears off her clothes and they have to hurry, because the cows are about to go into the road.
And when a researcher for a TV show wants Virginia to represent virgins on an interview show about modern love, she agrees.
The whole interview is very funny. Virginia is practical and in control.
…Virginia sensed that she disappointed Mr. Wysdom. Was she happy in her virginity? Yes, she was. He looked a trifle downcast. Was there no private, promiscuous being within her trying to get out? No, there wasn’t. Then how was it, in this day and age–he was a master of the softly spoken cliche–that she maintained her unusual state? Simply, that, believe it or not, Mr. Wysdom (she refused to call him Geoffrey, though he kept calling her Virginia) the occasion for ending that state had never arisen. No one had ever asked her.
Although we’re thinking, Poor Virginia! we’re also laughing. She isn’t doing too badly for herself.
But the TV interview does help her in a way. Rita Thompson, a 50-year-old widow and a former courtesan, whom we first meet dressed as a fairy godmother as she comes home from a volunteer performance of Cinderella at the old folks’ club, sees Virginia on TV and writes her a letter. When Virginia comes to visit, Mrs. Thompson takes her to a bar and introduces her to a handsome salesman.
Virginia’s life is at times comical, at other times very painful. After her brief encounter with the salesman, she looks forward to meeting her pen friend from Utah. Then there is the professor, who pities her after seeing the TV interview.
The ending is darkly comic–life isn’t a fairy tale for former virgins. And what Cinderella might have settled for isn’t quite what Virginia hoped for.