Part of the Furniture

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Seventeen-year-old Juno Marlowe - pretty, but diffident and awkward - is caught in a World War II air raid as she crosses London after seeing off to the front the two shallow young men she has worshiped like a puppy for years. Sheltered overnight by an ailing stranger, she is launched by his sudden death - and the letter he charges her to deliver to his father - into an unlooked-for but defiant journey. Finding herself embraced without question by his eccentric family, Juno begins to blossom under the watchful ...
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Part of the Furniture: A Novel

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Overview

Seventeen-year-old Juno Marlowe - pretty, but diffident and awkward - is caught in a World War II air raid as she crosses London after seeing off to the front the two shallow young men she has worshiped like a puppy for years. Sheltered overnight by an ailing stranger, she is launched by his sudden death - and the letter he charges her to deliver to his father - into an unlooked-for but defiant journey. Finding herself embraced without question by his eccentric family, Juno begins to blossom under the watchful gaze of the estate's reclusive owner, Robert Copplestone. A once-charming, robust man who has been shattered by the loss of his wife and, now, the death of his son, Robert is immediately drawn to Juno's wounded but unflappable self. Gradually and almost against his will, he learns to love again and patiently waits for Juno to shed a childish love for those who did not love her back. In the blacked-out English countryside, an eccentric farm family and an idyllic spring transform Juno's slighted, wounded existence into strength and joy and, above all, a life as more than just a part of the furniture.

Seventeen-year-old Juno Marlowe is caught in a London air raid where she is sheltered overnight by an ailing stranger. Juno is launched by the stranger's sudden death--and the letter he charges her to deliver to his father--on a defiant journey through the blacked-out English countryside to his eccentric but nurturing family. 256 pp. National ads.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Idiosyncratic characters, sublimely understated prose, and coincidence-driven plots make the splendid Wesley An Imaginative Experience, LJ 2/15/95 an acquired taste. Darker than Barbara Pym, more romantic than Anita Brookner, she's carved out a singular literary territory. The setting of her latest work is World War II England, and her heroine is vulnerable, intelligent Juno Marlowe, who has been terribly ill used by the two men she's adored all her life. Wandering London's streets after seeing them off to war, she is caught in an air raid and is plucked from danger by sickly Evelyn Copplestone, whose lungs were shredded by mustard gas in the Great War. Touched by Juno's beauty and desolation, he gives her a letter of introduction to his father, Robert, and then dies. Juno treks to Robert's farm in Cornwall and is taken in. A tender, entirely believable May-December romance ensues. This beautiful, ironic, and utterly winning story is one of Wesley's best. Highly recommended.-Jo Manning, Staten Island, N.Y.
School Library Journal
YA--Set in England during World War II, this story has some of the charm of Maeve Binchy's writing, but with more of a bite to it. Juno Marlowe is an innocent 17 year old. Her cold and remote mother has already fled to Canada and her daughter is to follow, all arrangements made. However, plans change when Juno goes to London with two neighborhood boys to see them off to war. Caught up in the excitement of enlistment departure, they take easy advantage of the teen's affectionate enthusiasm and both make love to her. Then off to war they go, leaving her in the midst of an air raid and, as it turns out, pregnant. A kindly acquaintance provides Juno with a letter of introduction to an estate owner, where she settles into the role of Land Girl. The sketchy, frenetic scenes in London yield to more thoughtfully paced views of a James Herriot-like farm and readers sense in Juno strengths that had not been revealed in her distraught flights and loveless upbringing. Her happy and amusing experiences with the animals and the kindly folk of the village gradually restore her spirits and feelings of self-worth. Change in and development of a strong character, combined with a vital re-creation of the gallantry of the Brits of World War II and a happy romance, make this an appealing historical novel.--Frances Reiher, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
New York Times Book Review
Rachel Billington wrote that at the heart of Mary Wesley's "sharp, sometimes wickedly satirical novels is a deeply romantic sensibility." -- New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
A tart and persuasive portrait of an uncertain young woman's discovery of her heart's true needs.

This is not new terrain for Wesley (An Imaginative Experience, 1995, A Dubious Legacy, 1992, etc.), who has often before tracked characters stumbling along the long path to something like real love. No one does it better: Her prose is simple and precise, her view of love's varying needs and confusions exact, her skewering of human foibles amused and exact. Juno Marlowe is, as the novel opens, attempting to escape an air raid. She is in London, in the early days of World War II, and has just said farewell to two young men going off to join their regiment. She has loved both Jonty and Francis since childhood; they, having decided with the chilling ruthlessness of youth that it won't do to go off to war as virgins, have managed to talk the insecure Juno into sleeping with both of them. Juno is given shelter during the air raid by Evelyn Copplestone, a polished, evidently wealthy, dour individual, who is also mortally ill. He makes Juno promise to take a letter to his father in the country, and dies before morning. Partly as an excuse to avoid being shipped off to Canada, and away from Jonty and Francis, the until-now pliable Juno pursues her quixotic mission, showing a surprising independence. Robert Copplestone, despite his despair at the loss of his wife and, now, his son, gives Juno shelter. His odd, somewhat raffish household begins to arouse her exuberant enjoyment of life; to her amazement, Juno, at first stunned by the discovery that her night with Jonty and Francis has left her pregnant, begins to develop a new frankness and sense of purpose. Amazed, she finds herself deeply attracted to Robert. It's some testament to Wesley's skill that the unlikely romance between Robert and Juno seems both right and entirely believable.

An elegant, satisfying entertainment.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780783882239
  • Publisher: Cengage Gale
  • Publication date: 8/1/1997
  • Series: G. K. Hall Core Ser.
  • Pages: 351
  • Product dimensions: 6.45 (w) x 9.52 (h) x 1.29 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary Wesley was born in 1912. Her education took her to the London School of Economics and during the war she worked in the War Office. Her first novel, Jumping the Queue, was published at the age of seventy.
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 17, 2003

    Wonderful read

    It's hard to believe that this book was published in 1997--it has a wonderful old-fashioned feel to it. Mary Wesley tells a romantic tale, but she doesn't tell everything, leaving the reader to figure out some and wonder about the rest. Set during WWII on an English farm on the coast of Cornwall, it depicts an Arcadia (the descriptions of life on the farm are sublime) barely secure from the depredations of the war raging in Europe and seeping through England. The story is a romance with a very tart undertone and a kick at the end. Exquisitely written, witty, warmhearted, the old-fashioned kind of book you can't put down and don't want to end.

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