Earlier this week I stumbled across a reading list on the Seattle Public Library's website. It was a Pearl's Picks list, some of you may know Nancy Pearl from her work on NPR. I scanned her July picks and discovered that on the July 1 list I had already read two of the three books - so I thought she must be right about the third one. I looked it up on-line at EVPL and Central Library had it on the shelf. A quick and entertaining read, I finished it in just a couple of days.
A Far Cry From Kensington was first published in 1988, and went on the shelf at EVPL in paperback form in 2001. From the condition of the book, its not been read much and this is a shame. The main character, Mrs. Hawkins is a heavy set WWII war widow in Kensington in the 1950's. She lives in a third story room of a Victorian house with other tenants that are wonderfully colorful. She works as a book and magazine editor for a series of publishers and her "dealings" with one particular man hopeful of becoming an author is one story line. It is interspersed with lesser story lines revolving around her fellow tenants, neighbors, and work mates.
Mrs. Hawkins is thought of as a stalwart womon of responsibility and is "Mrs. Hawkins" to all despite her youth and short-termed marriage. Everyone goes to Mrs. Hawkins for advice, for help of all sorts, but no one truly sees her as she is. Mrs. Hawkins matter-of-factly resolves to lose the weight and break out of image others have made of the young widow. She does by the end of the story in more ways than the reader realizes along the way. She becomes Nancy.
This story is well written; not surprising since Spark is the author of several well written books including The Prime of Miss Jean Brody.