Away From the Vicarage

A week ago, I did something very exciting -- I joined the Athenaeum Library! (Thank you Kirsty for putting the idea into my head.) I've long been aware that there was a library upstairs in the same building as the Athenaeum Theatre, but I'd never investigated it. It's the library of my dreams -- a perfect combination of second hand bookshop and a library, in that it's stocked with lots of the kinds of books I love to read -- including the middle volume of Noel Streatfeild's thinly-veiled autobiographical trilogy, Away From the Vicarage, which I've never been able to get my hands on. Huzzah!

I'm looking forward to exploring the collection; even on my flying visit to sign up and pay my subscription, I saw at least ten books that I want to borrow immediately.

Away From the Vicarage covers Streatfeild's twenties, which were also conicidentally, the 1920s, which she spent training and working as an actress, quite a scandalous career for a vicar's daughter in the years after WWI. As usual, Streatfeild's prose is conversational, easy and always engaging as she sweeps us through horrible theatrical lodgings, plays of varying quality, extended tours of South Africa and Australia, and always affairs at home, in the very different world of the vicarage. 

I've also been dipping into Francesca Ware's Square Haunting, which deals with the lives of five women who lived at Mecklenburgh Square in Bloomsbury, where Streatfeild lodged, and I realised that Dorothy L Sayers and Noel Streatfeild probably lived close to each other at the same time. I wonder if they ever met? Neither of them thought of themselves as writers at this time, and it's unlikely that their paths crossed then, but I wonder if they ever did?


  1. I also belong to an Athenaeum, Kate. It's in Maldon, 15 minutes away, and is full of older books, backlists galore, a whole room of crime novels, and a beautiful reading room with stained glass windows and a massive polished table where people gather to play Scrabble on a Saturday morning. It costs $30 a year, most of the volunteers are retired, and I want it to keep going. It's a treasure!

  2. Oh, that sounds absolutely wonderful! Older books and backlists are my idea of how a proper library should be. Every time I visit I fall more deeply under its spell, I wish I'd joined up years ago (it would have saved me a packet in second hand book purchases, for a start)