AUTHOR: STELLA GIBBONS
PUBLISHER: VINTAGE BOOKS
GENRE: ROMANTIC FICTION
COVER TYPE: PAPER BACK
BLURB FROM THE COVER
Set in wartime London, Westwood tells the story of Margaret Steggles, a plain, bookish girl whose mother has told her that she is ‘not the type that attracts men’. Her schoolfriend, Hilda has a sunny temperament and keeps her service boys ‘ever so cheery’. When Margaret finds a ration book on Hampstead Health the pompous writer, Gerard Challis enters both their lives. Margaret slavishly adores Challis and his artistic circle. Challis idolises Hilda for her hair and her eyes and Hilda finds his romantic overtures a bit of a bind.
THE OPENING LINE
London was beautiful that summer.
To put it mildly and politely, I thought Westwood was a load of old shit. Romantic fiction is not my thing. It sort of makes my gag reflex kick in. I will not be reading anymore work by Gibbons if her other novels are anything like this stinker.
I didn’t enjoy a single thing about Westwood. Except the sort of cute front cover. The tile’s okay as well.
Where do I begin? There’s so much I loathed about Westwood.
The whole concept of Westwood is insulting to women and intelligence and the world in general. A woman finds a ration book that leads her to a pompous writer and his swanky friends. Margaret moons and simpers over him while doing everything to inject herself into his life. Stalker alert. Challis spends all his time trying to get the leg over Hilda who treats him a little stray dog she wants to pet and feed. The whole thing made me feel nauseous and not in a good way.
I couldn’t find a single redeeming quality in any of the characters. I mean really. I wanted to give Margaret a good slap. She came across as really horrible. She’s cruel, manipulative, snobbish and bitchy. I don’t have any issue with someone who is all of these things but a character needs something more to stop becoming a stereotype. I felt no sympathy for her and just wanted to belt her one. Hilda was irritating. In the world of Gibbons ‘cheery disposition’ is the new word for slut. I wanted to slap her as well. Don’t even get me started on Challis and his cartoon buffoonery. Or Zita’s, Margaret’s friend from Challis’s circle and her childish temper tantrums.
I wasn’t impressed by the quality of writing either. The prose was long winded and flowery and added to the nauseous feeling. Gibbons had a tendency to exaggerate everything to ridiculous proportions. Everything was just so dramatic, swooning and over the top. Gibbons felt the need to explain everything. There was no room left for the reader. Gibbons also felt the need to reveal every thought that stumbled through her characters minds. The dialogue made me cringe.
Westwood is just awful. I couldn’t get on with it at all. I’ve read a lot of good reviews so obviously there are a bunch of crazy people in the world who don’t know what they’re talking about. They must have read a different version. If Gibbons is like Jane Austen then there are two more authors for me to avoid. This just wasn’t my thing. I’ve had two stinkers in a row from the book club so they better come up trumps next month.