The Girl Who Wasn't Claudia by Eve Chaucer

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Steve Whatley
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The Girl Who Wasn't Claudia by Eve Chaucer

Post by Steve Whatley » Fri 10 Jul, 2009 14:12:47

I've just finished reading The Girl Who Wasn't Claudia, and what a splendid and entertaining tale it proved to be!

The main settings of 1930's London and Budapest appealed to me from the start, and the book has a real Hungarian flavour throughout, whether our heroine is actually in that country, or just thinking wistfully of it in her more mundane London surroundings.

The book is dedicated to 'My Only Hungarian Cousin Judith Lostowel', and the page following the dedication bears an untitled Budapest poem by the author's son W. A. Younger.

The dustwrapper shown on this website has the look of Diana Younger's artwork about it, but as my copy has the 'variant' dustwrapper, I'm unable to verify this. It would certainly make the whole thing a real 'family' production. I wonder whether Clive Williams, or anyone else, is able to confirm whether or not the artwork is Diana Younger's?

The use of real streets in Battersea and Chelsea lends the tale credibility from the start, and with other references including a Lyon's Corner House, a seemingly authentic picture of 1930's London is painted. I particularly liked; "The air in the little house in Battersea was as flat and exhausted as that of the streets outside; stale September air, sluggishly circulated by the ceaseless panting of a tired and sweating population." (By the way, that's about as depressing as the book ever gets.)

I've been unable to prove the existence of a contemporary feature film entitled Dangerous Dancer which plays no small part in the story, and so assume it is an invention of the author - unless anyone knows otherwise?

I found a poignant irony in our heroine's observation, whilst travelling across Germany by train, of "red flags with the swastika in a white circle flying gaily in the breeze from many buildings."

The interweaving of history, politics and philosophy into the conversation between the characters is not dissimilar to the DW style, although the general narrative style is less prosaic than that of DW, and the better for it.

The plot device of a romance potentially thwarted by the suspected close blood relationship of the couple had been used by DW a few years before in The Fabulous Valley (1934).

Characters include a writer of popular fiction and a film producer. The idea that the latter might be interested in a screenplay based on the very plot of the story adds more than a hint of glamour to the proceedings, and indeed helps to advance the plot. One can't help wondering whether Eve Chaucer hoped that her fairy-tale plot would indeed capture the imagination of a successful screenwriter or producer.

All is brought to a satisfying conclusion by the discovery of a letter in the final chapter; there are no last minute surprises, for the clue was in the title.

For those who prefer the thrills and spills of a DW adventure, I'm afraid there's not a gun or a villain in sight, except in the retelling of historical events. But then this is a romance, and it 'does what it says on the cover'.

The book provides an interesting sidelight on early twentieth-century European history, but it is the beautiful and exotic settings of Hungary and Roumania which left a more lasting impression on this reader.

KLP85
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Post by KLP85 » Mon 14 Apr, 2014 13:58:57

I noticed a first ed of this going so i purchased it as I was interested in the Link with DW but I've not seen many of her early edition books for sale anywhere!. Did not many prints of her books get made? It seems to me strange not to see even books without dust jacket for sale. On abe books over 7000 books for DW and Eve Chaucer 0

Charles
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Post by Charles » Tue 15 Apr, 2014 22:29:33

You're right .... books by Eve Chaucer are most uncommon, even without dust jackets.

I haven't seen precise sales figures, but I have seen a 5th Thousand of Joan/Eve's third novel, 'It Is Easier For A Camel' so sales of that book certainly got up to that number, and the third volume of DW's autobiography, 'Drink and Ink', gives some information about sales of her sixth and final novel, 'Silk Sheets and Breadcrumbs'.

On pp 182-3 (first edition), DW says :

"While the great battle was raging on the Continent my book, Faked Passports, and Joan’s last, Silk Sheets and Bread-crumbs, were both published ...

... As a matter of interest, the respective sales of Faked Passports (a bestseller) and Silk Sheets (a light novel that did reasonably) were 7926 and 1426 copies"

So perhaps it is no wonder that copies are pretty scarce.

Congratulations on your acquisition !
Charles

KLP85
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Post by KLP85 » Thu 17 Apr, 2014 01:13:24

Many Thanks Charles that info from the autobiography is very interesting. I'm Sure Steve Knows by now as the thread is quite old but for anyone reading this thread the artwork is by Diana Younger signed lower right by her below the art deco looking princess Leia :D

Steve Whatley
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Post by Steve Whatley » Wed 7 May, 2014 21:33:30

Dear KLP85,

Sorry for the delay in replying to you, but I was abroad at the time you posted your comments. No, I hadn't been able to confirm the identity of the cover artist, so I'm most interested (and pleased) to learn that my guess was correct; Diana Younger's style at that time was certainly quite distinctive, and I would say - though I'm no art critic - somewhat immature. But nevertheless I would suggest that it is a style that reflects something of the flavour of the age, both here and on the DW covers which she designed.

If you should read The Girl Who Wasn't Claudia, I'd be interested to know your thoughts upon it, as I haven't spoken to anyone else who has read this title.

I'm not certain of your identity, but is there any chance of your attending the DW Convention this year? We're always delighted to welcome 'new recruits', and it would be nice to meet you!

All Best,
Steve[font=Courier New] [/font]

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