The Tortoise and the Hare

Some poor person somewhere must have the job of reading through piles and piles of deservedly out-of-print books to find the occasional forgotten treasure that got mistakenly put out with the rubbish.

I certainly don't envy them their task, but am very grateful for their diligence when a book like The Tortoise And The Hare is rescued from obscurity 54 years after it was first published.

Having now read the book, it doesn't come as a big surprise to learn that the author (who is, I believe, still alive at the age of 105) is a big Jane Austen fan.

The book is a perceptive and often very witty tale about a 1950s Home Counties marriage – fascinating as a piece of its time but also (like Jane Austen) as a timeless study of relationships. The tortoise and hare of the title are Imogen, the young, beautiful and arty wife of distinguished barrister Evelyn Gresham, and her neighbour Blanche Silcox, a dowdy middle-aged spinster – but not necessarily in that order.

Condescended to by her husband and treated with barely disguised contempt by her 10-year-old son, from the very beginning of the book we realise that Imogen is essentially trapped. She has very little to do and very little she can do – she can't even drive so she has a chauffeur to take her everywhere and the day-to-day running of the house is done by her housekeeper.

Her contribution is really only decorative, so when it becomes clear that her husband has lost interest in her attractions and is instead drawn closer and closer to the highly competent Blanche, Imogen doesn't have the ability to fight to save her marriage.

I really enjoyed this book – and really enjoyed the fact that I'm not living in the 1950s. So, thank you to whoever it was who rediscovered it. And keep reading – the next little gem is just round the corner! 

The Tortoise And The Hare by Elizabeth Jenkins