A comedy of errors. Social comedy worthy of Barbara Pym is Deborah Moggach's wonderful A Quiet Drink. This is the sort of story where you know two people are going to come together, only it takes most of the book to happen, and then when it does it is a quick delight, a disaster and then an unexpected though perfect ending that almost really couldn't conclude any other way. And Deborah Moggach pulls it all off spectacularly.
"It is a sly stroke of chance which brings Claudia and Steve together. Yet neither could know how far the consequences of a quiet drink would reach . . ."
Claudia was married to Adrian, but he's left her for Beth. It was a reasonably amicable split, though she'll feel bad when she finds out that Beth is pregnant. Now she lives in a flat where if she drops a pencil no one else will pick it up off the floor unless she does so. It could sit there for weeks unattended. Claudia works for Yours magazine.
Steve is lately married to June. He's a cosmetics salesman who will face something of a moral crisis when he meets a woman who works for a nonprofit trying to stop cruelty to animals (including stopping cosmetics firms from experimenting on animals). But that's a bit of an aside. He's fallen hard for June because she's so beautiful, but once they are married she stops working and becomes a rather stodgy housewife and not the wild pussycat he had expected (or at any rate, she's not one any longer).
June worked for a store selling cosmetics and would cross paths with Steve every time he came in to sell new items and tweak the store's displays. June is charming and pretty and the two are immediately attracted. However she knows she is not terribly ambitious and not in really the smartest cookie in the package, though she does try and educate herself in a way that will make her more interesting to Steve. She likes improving their home and looks forward to new carpeting.
The new carpeting is bypassed when Steven uses the money to donate to the firm trying to save the animals. All for nothing as the woman he's trying to impress is mostly indifferent. June has no idea.
Claudia decides to take in a lodger and after a number of interviews with prospective roommates she settles on Alistair who works as a librarian. A nice fellow, a little odd. He has a mum somewhere out in the boonies. He keeps diaries which Claudia begins reading, both repelled by her behavior and unable to stop herself. She feels she must invite him to eat with her at mealtimes. It's very awkward as you might imagine.
June begins going to the library when Steve is off on his business calls and crosses paths with Alistair but they are only interested in the exchange of ideas and information.
Claudia's best friend Verity is married to Wil. They have several children. She grows their food and is all natural in her outlook on life and raising a family. They live in the outer suburbs. Maybe even further than that. Wil commutes into London for work. Wil makes a pass at Claudia. She almost regrets not taking him up on it fully since there is not so much as a look from an eligible man otherwise.
Claudia and Steve meet when his cosmetics firm has business with her magazine, Yours. They cross paths. They go for a quiet drink.
And this is where it all gets really good.
Characters meeting up, crossing paths, circling each other's orbits. Until one cut finger and a lack of sticking plasters threatens to unravel it all . . .
Social comedy extraordinaire.
I can see this as a movie!
It was published in 1980. It doesn't in any way feel dated to me, yet it oozes that period.
I could pick it up again Right Now and start reading it once more.
Deborah Moggach is a delight, but I think I mentioned that to you already.
I have almost all her books.
Yes, I am going to read more.
Very likely one of my best reads of the year.