This review is written in celebration of Margery Sharp’s birthday on January 25th, 2016. I would like to thank Jane from Beyond Eden Rock for encouraging us to celebrate the life and works of a wonderful author, most of whose works remain difficult to find.
If ‘The Eye of Love’ was a lively entree into this delightful trilogy, ‘Martha in Paris’ was a deliciously light and entertaining prelude to the substantial finale of the drama- ‘Martha, Eric and George’, surrounding the central character of Martha.
The child Martha, her stolid personality, her large appetite, her obsession with drawing and sketching, even in the most trying circumstances amuses us in the book ‘The Eye of Love’.
In ‘Martha in Paris’ Martha due to her benefactor, Mr Joyce’s encouragement, accepts an opportunity to study art under a master-class artist in Paris. In Paris, she meets Eric, an English bank employee, and the two embark on a relationship of sorts, brought about under the most peculiar circumstances!
Martha’s plans to seriously continue her artistic studies are seriously thwarted, however, when she discovers that she is carrying Eric’s child. ‘Martha in Paris’, memorably concludes when Martha deposits her newborn son (unknown to Eric) on the doorstep of Eric’s Parisian apartment.
‘Martha, Eric and George’ starts when the baby is discovered by Madame Leclerc, the concierge of the apartment buildings that Eric and his mother reside in. In all her thirty years of being concierge at the building, this incident, perhaps, tops it all.
…she hadn’t meant to be defrauded of the most exciting incident in all her thirty years as concierge. There had once been a suicide on the Fifth, a burglary on the Third; in each case Madame Leclerc gave evidence, for so respectable a house it wasn’t bad, but neither episode could touch, for drama and human interest, the act of placing within the arms of a serious young man his illegitimate offspring.
Eric is astonished to discover that he is a father.
His single pertinent thought was still classic. “Oh God,” thought Eric Taylor,”why did this happen to me?”
Bewildered, Eric unburdens his offspring into his Mother’s arms, who is delighted to find that she is a grandmother.
Meanwhile, Martha escapes to England and starts practicing her art in earnest. In the next ten years she develops a reputation as a formidable artist. She does not think of her son during this time. Eric, is unable to track down Martha due to lack of a forwarding address. When an opportunity to exhibit her work in Paris arises, ten years later, she is reminded that somewhere in Paris, she has a son.
There is a remarkable section in the book that describes the meeting of Martha, Eric and George in a Parisian coffee shop. One can only imagine the repercussions of such a meeting. One would imagine a mother to be visibly moved upon meeting her son, perhaps her heart might be softened upon seeing her offspring… one can never be sure, especially with Margery Sharp’s excellent storytelling.
Without giving too much away, I will leave it to you to find out what happens next…
Eric, Martha and George deals with several feminist issues: those of a woman or mother’s expected role in society. Indeed, it challenges those societal norms. We are encouraged to think sometimes, why should a man too, not be expected to play a nurturing role, outside that of merely supplying monetary sustenance to a child?
This is a clever book. One which kept me and keeps me thinking about it.