This week when my air conditioner decided to break down, I hung out in the library for some free cool air. I had to stop going to the mall for their free cool air – it was too expensive. But a good incentive for my hubby to get the repair guys on the job quickly!
I randomly picked this book off the shelf mainly because of the title: “Not All Tarts Are Apple.” It had some other attracting features that called out to me from the shelf like the author’s name Pip Granger - now that is a great author name. And she won the Harry Bowling Prize for Fiction – I have no idea what this award is for but I’m sure it’s important. I also liked the fact that it was only 200 pages long and included a glossary at the end. A glossary is very helpful when reading a book filled with Cockney slang. I know that a blighter is a cad, a rotter, an untrustworthy type, but I was glad to know that a punter refers to someone who bets but also means a customer. Mush is your face. A set of lugs are your ears, but then shell-likes are also your ears. You can see why a glossary is very helpful.
Granger writes a fictional memoir set in the shady Soho district of London during the summer of 1953. This is a heartwarming story filled with loveable characters. Rosa is a seven-year-old abandoned by her alcoholic mother to be raised by a couple called Auntie Maggie and Uncle Bert who run a café. Remember “My Fair Lady”? These characters are even more endearing and despicable. The café neighbors include a shady lawyer, a clairvoyant, prostitutes, thieves and other assorted con artists. Using a seven-year-old as voice gives us an innocent, non-judgmental view of her unusual friends.
When a classmate announces on the school playground that her mum is a tart, Rosa gives the girl a bloody nose even though she isn’t sure what the word means. The very large, dressed in her best, Auntie Maggie “…sailed in through the school gate like royalty. “Don’t you worry, love. I’ll sort it out. You run along and play.” Of course, up until then I hadn’t been worried at all, because I hadn’t really twigged that anything was wrong, although I should have got inkling on account of the dress and Granny’s brooch.”
Auntie Maggie did sort it out and as she and a large cast of characters surround and protect Rosa, we come to love them all. At the end of their adventures which include kidnapping and blackmail, we miss them all terribly. “The Widow Ginger” is the sequel which I will pick up from the library to read and enjoy at home now that my air conditioner is fixed.