There is no two ways about it, Lovejoy is an eleven year-old tyrant but oh, did I ever fall for her. Fobbed off on Mrs Crombie and Vincent by her useless mother, Lovejoy lives amongst the soot and debris of post-war London. Her clothes are too small and her feet are busting out of her shoes but her observant eye recognizes good quality and one day she vows things will be different. Vincent also loves teaching his very keen protege how to make a little go a long way in his restaurant. A simple flower in a small glass and a crisp, clean tablecloth will bring a smile to a customer's face and barely costs anything. But much to Mrs Crombie's despair his passions occasionally run to more expensive accoutrements.
Lovejoy desperately wants to create an Italian garden, tucked away somewhere safe from marauding boys. She resorts to all sorts of wheeling, dealing and stealing to acquire whatever she needs to make her dream garden a reality. Tip Malone is the leader of the neighbourhood street gang but he bends to Lovejoy's commands in such a way your heart melts for him as well. They're like an old married couple come to think of it. And when Lovejoy thinks the eyes on the statue of The Virgin Mary at church follow her, burning into her very soul to expose her indiscretions, Tip helps her to find absolution. Honestly, you will laugh and cry for these two and I mustn't forget little Sparkey with his bad chest, too fragile to be of much use to anyone. Sitting on the stoup with only newspaper wrapped around his skinny legs for warmth I wanted to knit him a sweater so badly!
This story of love, hard work, determination and even disappointment is so beautifully told by Rumer Godden. Her sublime writing and the way she wraps characters around your heart just might explain why I haven't come across her books in second-hand shops. My book is a library copy but I will be searching high and low amongst the shops on Charing Cross Road for one to call my own.
Thank you, Harriet, for writing about this very inspirational story.