Book Review: Miss Plum and Miss Penny

Reviewing Miss Plum and Miss Penny, by Dorothy Evelyn Smith

Spoiler Alert: The End is Revealed!

Miss Penny takes a walk one day, through the deserted Recreation Grounds of the town near her village. She is distressed to share the bench with another woman who is crying, so she takes herself away. Just at the gate, she turns back for a moment. To her horror, the woman with whom she shared the bench is now walking into the duck pond, apparently determined to drown herself. Miss Penny runs back, convinces the woman to come out of the water, and in the absence of any other place to take her, takes her home.

Soon she finds her home and her life turned upside down, as Miss Plum, without apparently trying, charms the men of the village, even George. George is Miss Penny’s long-lost lover, sent away by her parents twenty years before. He has written every year on her birthday, except this one. He arrived instead, two months after the birthday. But Miss Penny is too set in her ways to marry a traveling man, and George cannot bear the thought of settling down.

I think I liked this book, although it is a bit different from my usual choices. The characters certainly come to life. The episodes of village life are marvelously described, and the moment when the vicar’s son relents and joins him at prayer in the church brought tears to my eyes. However, I found myself a little impatient with the main characters, particularly Miss Penny. Ms. Smith seems to lose control of the story slightly towards the end of the book, and Miss Penny is rather obscured as George is focused on instead. Miss Penny is so upset by Miss Plum’s behavior that she becomes rather monotone, insisting that she cannot bear Miss Plum a moment longer.

In the end, George leaves the village suddenly, with Miss Plum. It is a sudden resolution to a plot problem that was becoming intractable, of what would become of Miss Plum. It is somewhat believable, but, in its suddenness, somewhat not believable.

I would have preferred a longer resolution, and one that did not seem quite so pulled from thin air. I would have also liked to know more about Miss Plum from her own point of view, which we don’t actually see at all. Was she really as manipulative as Ada (Miss Penny’s housekeeper) thought? Or was she really what she seemed, a downtrodden, depressed young woman easily put upon and looking for a safe place?

Three out of five stars

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