I heard on NPR recently a segment called “My Guilty Pleasure,” which features writers talking “about the books they love but are embarrassed to be seen reading.” I wondered: What is my guilty pleasure? And I came up with only one answer: ANYTHING by (British writer) Margery Sharp.
My all-time favorite of hers is a novel called Cluny Brown, which came out in 1944 with Little, Brown and Company and became a 20th Century Fox Film in 1946. I loved it back in high school, and I love it still. I re-read it at least once a year, I’m sure.
This summer, for the first time, I read a few more Sharp titles: The Nutmeg Tree, The Stone of Chastity (which is actually about a folklorist/professor-type who comes to a small town in order to investigate the origins of a so-called stepping stone in a brook that causes unchaste women to topple into the water and allows virtuous women to bounce lightly across to the other bank–under the eyes of their husbands or husbands-to-be), Britannia Mews (which got pretty dark there for a while and lent me a new respect for Sharp), and Something Light (about a woman who was once an orphan apprenticed to a photographer). All in all, pretty good. But still: not as good as my old standby, Cluny Brown, which is just, I don’t know, delightful. Rompy. A feel-good kind of story.
But just now, as I was Googling Marjery Sharp in order to write this post, I discovered something new. Sharp wrote children’s books. She wrote The Rescuers, and Miss Bianca, and Miss Bianca in the Salt Mines, and Miss Bianca in the Orient, and Miss Bianca in the Antarctic, and Bernard into Battle, and Bernard the Brave, and The Rescuers Down Under.
I remember little orphan Penny. I remember because I was a little orphan, too. And I remember Penny’s teddy bear. The first thing I ever got, upon arrival to America, was a brown teddy bear. And I remember the diamond that the evil Medusa hid in Penny’s teddy. Mine did not have a diamond in it. And although I did not have little British mice friends, I often wished I had.
I think there couldn’t be a better end to this post, a better end to my summer of guilty pleasures, than to discover that my favorite feel-good novelist also wrote my favorite feel-good children’s story, which, as soon as I can, I will read (rather than watch).
So now it’s your turn: What’s your guilty pleasure?