Forty-year-old Hannah Mole would have been considered a
stereotypical spinster in her nonpolitically correct time. On the
outside, she’s plain; shabbily dressed except for her one indulgence,
shoes; and given to running off at the mouth. Inside, she’s causticly
observant, funny, and unceasingly optimistic, always always counting on
something good to come along to rescue her. Alone in the world with
only one romance in her past, Miss Mole wants rescue from life as a
housekeeper, companion, nanny, and caretaker—positions she can’t seem
to hold on to.
As the book opens, Miss Mole has done some rescuing of her own, saving a man from suicide but getting no gratitude from his upstairs neighbor, prickly Mr. Blenkinsop. On the verge of losing another position, she runs into well-to-do distant cousin Lilla, with whom she was educated above her station. Lilla finds Miss Mole a position with a widowed minister in Radstowe (Bristol). Rev. Corder and his daughters each need fixing in different ways, and Miss Mole takes them on as projects, trying to keep her oddball personality under wraps.
If this is sounding like a Jane Austen plot, let’s just say that there may be romance in the second half of Miss Mole’s life.
A charming book with vivid characters and sparkling dialogue, Miss Mole won Britain’s James Tait Black Award. It is considered the best novel of E. H. Young, who was largely forgotten until Virago Press rereleased several of her works in the 1980s.
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