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Insufferably boring. This book is quite readable The description of the life in hospital is interesting, triggering searches for images of cuffs, caps and bowsNone of the characters is really likable even the dog this time I know that nobody is perfect but, well, I wouldn t want to sit for a cup of tea with any of them. @Download Book ç Thursday Afternoons à Successful, admired, fairly happily married and ambitious, Steven Sheppard is very much a pillar of the community But inside him lurks a little demon of boredom which prompts him to ask if there isn tto life than this Has its charms, nicely written, and she perceives some things quite clearly But it lacks some quality of warmth and compassion, any fine grained empathy for the human condition A little cold, overall. This was such a well written book that I honestly did not expect to be giving it only three stars Thursday Afternoons, set in 1939, explores the life of Dr Steven Sheppard, a charismatic and successful doctor who now regrets both his choice of profession and his choice of wife He never has any intention of divorcing his insecure wife, but drifts from one affair to another while trying to write a novel and hoping to get away from his demanding private patients by volunteering to serve at sea i This was such a well written book that I honestly did not expect to be giving it only three stars Thursday Afternoons, set in 1939, explores the life of Dr Steven Sheppard, a charismatic and successful doctor who now regrets both his choice of profession and his choice of wife He never has any intention of divorcing his insecure wife, but drifts from one affair to another while trying to write a novel and hoping to get away from his demanding private patients by volunteering to serve at sea in the rapidly approaching war Steven reminded me of Don Draper Mad Men , a man who has it all but is never satisfied Although he interested me, I didn t warm to him My sympathy should have been with the betrayed wife, Ruth, but after a few pages of listening to her wittering on, I could understand all too well why she got on Steven s nerves Stephanie, Steven s girlfriend, seemed like someone I could have been friends withif she wasn t dating a married man Another important character is the rather pitiful Nurse Audrey Lake, who works at Steven s Thursday afternoon clinic, adores him, and becomes increasingly obsessed with him as the book progresses Then there s the house parlourmaid Ethel Garrard, who needs Steven s help to escape her violent husband But she is portrayed as so cold and self centred that I couldn t warm to her either Not that the absence of sympathetic characters would bother me as a general rule, as long as they were convincingly drawn which is certainly the case here Monica Dickens brings to vivid life every character, however minor, and every setting especially the hospital, where her experience as a nurse shines through, and the wardroom of a destroyer she married a naval officer I ll give two examples First, the genteel Mrs Delacroix, one of Steven s patients But here was Mrs Delacroix, in her tweed dress and jacket and pseudo Austrian hat, putting on her private patient act, which was intended to show that she wasaccustomed to visiting doctors in their consulting rooms than in clinics She was the widow of a bankrupt solicitor, and lived with her hulking, adolescent daughter in a bungalow which smelt of bread and butter and damp tea cloths She could not afford to be a private patient, but was not going to let Dr Sheppard or anyone else forget that she had once been one She went through the necessary formalities at the registration office and the Lady Almoner s with a remote, disinterested air, receiving her folder in her fingertips with a slight laugh to show how absurd all this was On the benches, she and her daughter sat immersed in books from the twopenny library, in which they kept the celluloid markers from the days when they had belonged to Boots.It was the detail of the celluloid bookmarks which pinned down Mrs Delacroix for me, as well as anchoring the story firmly in its period Boots Booklovers Library was a private subscription library, patronised by the middle classes, as opposed to the cheaper working class twopenny library By clinging on to the Boots bookmarks, Mrs Delacroix is clinging to her former way of life Nurse Lake, we learn later, also patronises the twopenny library she is reading a novel called Romany Wildcat This sounds like one of the popular bodice rippers filmed by Gainsborough Pictures in the 1940s, and it adds a touch of humour, because no one could be less like a wildcat of any ethnicity than Nurse Lake However, it s also a deft touch in her characterisation, a hint that she dreams of being a much bolder, sexier,adventurous woman So why the three stars Well, unfortunately I felt the structure of the book let it down There are numerous scenes and characters, excellent in themselves, which feel extraneous Most of the plot strands don t go anywhere much The book ends with a turn of events which I will call dramatic rather than melodramatic, as it s well prepared for but it leaves the characters up in the air, unable to complete their arcs The result is a rather baggy, unsatisfying novel, which frustrated me because I felt it could have been so much better In fact I found myself trying to rewrite the plot, never a good sign view spoiler I felt the book would have been better for dropping the entire sub plot of Mrs Garrard and her husband It s well written, but only exists to sweep Steven off the stage in the last chapter By contrast, Nurse Lake s obsession with Steven is so powerful and well portrayed why not make her the murderer She seems sanguine about his leaving the hospital, but I could see her deciding that if she couldn t have him, nobody could Or it could be she who deliberately tells Garrard where he is so that she can be a heroine and save the day, not realising she hasn t got it in her hide spoiler Nevertheless I feel the book is worth reading, if only because it demonstrates that Monica Dickens inherited the talent of her famous forebear when it came to cross sectioning, dissecting and analysing British society It s just that as far as plot goes, this isof a Pickwick Papers than a Bleak House A good story of a successful man who seems to have it all, but still feels empty and longing for that illusivehe feels there must be I enjoyed the writing and the characters, but the ending was such a dramatic letdown Left me feeling a bit unsatisfied with the read I will try another book by this author though as I like her writing. Monica Dickens has a great facility for creating characters From the vignette of the bus conductor complete with a snapshot of his domestic life to the main protagonists, every person but one comes to life credibly only Arthur Gerrard is a mere caricature and the chief weakness of the novel Dr Sheppard is the aloof, egocentric and self confident physician, successful and admired both professionally and personally with every appearance of a happy life His bovine and brainless lump of a wife Monica Dickens has a great facility for creating characters From the vignette of the bus conductor complete with a snapshot of his domestic life to the main protagonists, every person but one comes to life credibly only Arthur Gerrard is a mere caricature and the chief weakness of the novel Dr Sheppard is the aloof, egocentric and self confident physician, successful and admired both professionally and personally with every appearance of a happy life His bovine and brainless lump of a wife, neither use nor ornament, is one flaw in the otherwise perfect arc of his life as well as the unhappy story of their child The conniving Mrs Garrard, Steven s rich bourgeois friends and rich fussy patients, the painfully repressed Nurse Lake who is shocked into paralysis at the one moment when she could have made good all of these are drawn deftly with a shrewd eye for the telling detail I enjoyed the novel for the upbeat tone and the lively characters, but the shock of the ending was too harsh and too contrived It was too great a contrast from the bright and breezy narrative to the sudden violence and I wish Dickens could have punished her protagonists a littlebelievably On the surface, Steven Shepperd is a man who has it all a successful career as a hospital consultant, many friends, an adoring wife, and women fluttering around him like bees around honey.Steven nonetheless is bored with his life and most of the people who populate it, and begins to seek change and diversion.This novel beautifully captures the dying days of a quintessentially English world in the weeks leading up to the outbreak of war The descriptions of a provincial hospital, a smart London On the surface, Steven Shepperd is a man who has it all a successful career as a hospital consultant, many friends, an adoring wife, and women fluttering around him like bees around honey.Steven nonetheless is bored with his life and most of the people who populate it, and begins to seek change and diversion.This novel beautifully captures the dying days of a quintessentially English world in the weeks leading up to the outbreak of war The descriptions of a provincial hospital, a smart London home, a country weekend are all imbued with the poignancy of a final farewell as we move through the Summer of 1939 knowing, with the benefit of hindsight, what must lie ahead The characters also jump off the page in particular Steven s wife, the clingy, insecure Ruth, and gauche Nurse Lake who harbours a secret but hopeless passion for the attractive consultant.I agree with other reviewers, however, that the ending is overly dramatic and unbalances what was, until that point, a beautifully quiet and gentle narrative Monica Dickens has the natural ability to make her characters stride out of the pages of her book and acquire a life of their own She gets so engrossed in painting their little idiosyncrasies with the deftness that only a Dickens can muster up that she almost forgets that the novel really has no plot She tries to make up for it towards the end and messes it up a bit I guess in 1945 you couldn t get away with writing an open ended book and hence the need for the unnecessarily dramatic climax Monica Dickens has the natural ability to make her characters stride out of the pages of her book and acquire a life of their own She gets so engrossed in painting their little idiosyncrasies with the deftness that only a Dickens can muster up that she almost forgets that the novel really has no plot She tries to make up for it towards the end and messes it up a bit I guess in 1945 you couldn t get away with writing an open ended book and hence the need for the unnecessarily dramatic climax All in all an engrossing read for the exquisite word portraits and the insights into a vanished world Another engrossing and finely written Dickens novel Steven, a physician, is so well described that you feel you inhabit him The book itself seemed to me to be the story of a man casting about for happiness and judging himself a fake in all his jollity and success It was compelling.