Reading our Our Spoons Came From Woolworths by Barbara Comyns brought such a surprise. Written in 1950 and newly reissued by New York Review Books Classics, it tells the story of 21 year-old Sophia, who is married to Charles, a poor, young artist. The first line of this slim volume, “I told Helen my story and she went home and cried,” warns us that not all will be happy for Sophia, but the darkness of her story is hidden in her delightful, childlike narration. Readers should also heed the note on the copyright page, “the only things that are true in this story are the wedding and Chapters 10, 11 and 12 and the poverty.” These “true” chapters are the ones which detail the birth of Sophia's child and all the humiliating and dehumanizing horror she feels at this event. Yet Sophia's story is at times lighthearted to the point of inciting laughter. No matter what she is conveying, Sophia's tone, as she takes us through her ups and downs in daily life in England in the Great Depression, is always forthright.
“[H]er writing is so often antic and funny, full of odd little turns of phrase and words (‘squarked’), that it takes the reader some time to notice how awful her portraits of life really are,” says Emily Gould in her introduction to this edition, “but Barbara Comyns’s beguiling novel is far from tragic, despite the harrowing ordeals its heroine endures.”
I highly recommend diving into Comyns's autobiographical story. At only 196 pages, it contains so much, enticing humor and immense sadness.