“Too Dear for My Possessing” by Pamela Hansford Johnson

Too Dear For My Possessing: A Novel by Pamela Hansford Johnson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My first Pamela Hansford Johnson novel (but certainly not my last!), “Too Dear for My Possessing” is an engrossing tale of a young man’s life in Europe during the age of innocence preceding World War II. Claud, the son of a writer, moves with his father to Bruges while he is a boy, after his mother and father divorce. Accompanying them is Helena, the flamboyant, beautiful, and intimidating dancer with whom Claud’s father has fallen passionately in love. Claud grows up, becomes an art critic and bank clerk, and falls in with a fashionable crowd first in Paris and then in London, and he marries a lovely and sweet co-worker, Meg — but he cannot forget Cecil Archer, the precocious, red-haired girl with whom he danced as a child one afternoon and who accompanies him as an imaginary friend from time to time. Cecil becomes a famous performer but the connection between her and Claud only grows as the years go by. Claud’s struggle to do the right thing by Meg and to not repeat his father’s “mistakes” mean he must forsake true love for the duty’s sake — or must he?

“Too Dear for My Possessing” isn’t an action-packed page turner, but a thoughtful reflection on reason and passion, on the meaning of love, and on being true to oneself, written in gorgeous prose that is never overwrought and which brings its characters to vivid life. Readers will especially love the snarky, audacious stepmother Helena and the charismatic Cecil, women who challenge and enthrall the hero Claud and shape him into the man he becomes.

I discovered this book via the blog “Frisbee: A Book Journal,” one of my favorite book blogs for the very reason that Frisbee routinely introduces me to books and authors unfamiliar to me. “Too Dear for My Possessing” is the first novel in a trilogy, and you can bet that I will be tracking down the next installment. I need to know what becomes of Claud!

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