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The Japanese Screen by Anne Mather

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This is absolutely fashion-tastic. It gets five stars for the detailed descriptions of ghastly, ghastly, 1970s “style” alone. Some tasters:

  • rather shabby red velvet pants and a cream ribbed sweater
  • He was casually dressed in a tawny-coloured lounge suit and a roll-collared silk shirt that clung to the contours of his chest as he moved
  • Fernando looked stern and unapproachable in a black dinner jacket and narrow-fitting trousers. A mass of lace frothed over the satin edges of his lapels, and his hair had been combed smoothly against his head
  • She was wearing an amber-coloured caftan, edged with blue and green lurex braid, that dipped deeply to the cleft of her breasts in front and had wide sleeves that displayed her slender arms to advantage. She wore little make-up, adding only a green eye-shadow and a colourless lustre to her lips. Gold hoops swung out from the ashen fairness of her hair and she knew she was looking her best. As it was a cool evening, she wore a navy blue velvet cape over her dress

A cape! But that’s not even my favourite retro-monstrosity:

“His hair was damp from the shower he had just taken and he had changed into a white silk shirt with full sleeves that fastened at his wrist with pearl buttons. His trousers were cream, close-fitting at the hip, revealing the taut muscles of his thighs beneath the fine cloth, flaring towards the ankle above suede boots. Several of the buttons on his shirt were unfastened showing the brown skin of his chest, and she could see a silver medallion glinting amongst the hair.

What an absolute corker!

The fashion is far more interesting than the plot, which is a really cringeworthy “older Spanish roué woos uptight English virgin”. The Other Woman, if she can even be termed such since she has no interest in the hero whatsoever, is by far the most fun and amusing character in the book.

The plot really made no sense. Why did Monica even need the hero (view spoiler)

I’ve not even mentioned the heroine yet, have I? The totally dreary Norland Nanny-style Susannah. Oh, she’s actually a governess, but whatever.

One thing that does irk me: so it’s completely unthinkable for a man to shag a girl in a weekend cottage if she’s a virgin, but if she’s had just one previous encounter, then somehow that’s all fine? Because then there’s nothing to preserve/respect? I hate this concept of utter “ruination” from what may have been a single encounter (but even if multiple with multiple men, so what?)