This was another book recommended in Gladys Hunt’s, Honey for a Woman’s Heart. It recounts a young girl’s childhood in the county of Kent (southeast England) between the first and second world wars. Although the book is subtitled “Memoirs of a Kentish Childhood” and is told from the point of view of young Sarah, I feel the book could almost have been titled, “Memories of an Amazing Mother.” As Sarah’s story unfolds, you can’t help but admire the astonishing resourcefulness and courage of a penniless young widow with four children. She suffered hardship with dignity and without complaint, enabling her children to grow up in “genteel poverty”.
This is no action-packed novel, but rather a gentle tale told in a matter-of-fact tone. In fact, Shear’s straightforward prose gives the book much of its charm. Consider this quote from a chapter called “The Aunties.”
Grandmother Prior, who eloped with a poor farmer at the age of seventeen and was left a widow at thirty-five, had eight children – two boys and six girls. The boys, William and Henry, lived just long enough to bequeath their names to my two brothers, then quietly died – of measles. (p, 124)
In the book’s introduction, author R.F. Delderfield wrote, “Occasionally, possibly once every decade, the English literary scene is enriched by a piece of writing that glows with truth like a cottage lamp set down among a cluster of neon lights.” A Village Girl is one such book.
(Note that this book is also available with an alternate title: Tapioca for Tea)