The morning I left home Mother was recovering from being poorly and she’d been sick in the vegetable basket.
Sisters Victoria and Blanche grow up in their grandfather’s house in Warwickshire. It’s a secluded existence: their mother is a war widow with a thirst for port and sherry and their last governess leaves never to be replaced. When their grandfather dies, their mother replaces drink with housework and the girls plan their escape.
Blanche heads off to train as a model at a dubious institution in London. Vicky wants to study art but answers an ad leading her to Holland, where she tends a pack of miserable bull terriers. This is just the beginning of the sisters’ adventures which take them from the poverty of cooking eggs over a candle in their Mornington Crescent bedsit, to a wider bohemian world, as they encounter love and the fluctuating fortunes that come when you’re open to the strange twists life can take.
First published in 1967, A Touch of Mistletoe is a unique coming of age story that shows Barbara Comyns’s inimitable voice at its best.
‘A neglected genius.’ – Observer
‘Everyone should read Barbara Comyns… There is no one to beat her when it comes to the uncanny.’ – Guardian
‘You never quite know where you are with Comyns – which is what makes her novels so intriguing.’ – Telegraph
‘Quite simply, Comyns writes like no one else.’ – Maggie O’Farrell
‘The unrecognized British Nabokov… I would recommend her to anyone for the quality and magic detail of her prose.’ – Camilla Grudova
‘Comyns’s own witchy way of looking at the world arises from her resourceful craft – her wordsmithery – which like a spell or a charm gives her fiction a unique flavour.’ – Marina Warner
‘Strange and unsettling.’ – Margaret Drabble