Book Review: Bricks and Mortar by Helen Ashton


CJF Tunnicliffe from Green Tide by Richard Church

 The three books I have read since the August novella challenge ended have all been Persephone titles. As I mentioned previously, I needed an antidote to all of the novella angst and Persephone has done her magic. I was a bit worried I might read up all my remaining Persephones but then I picked up One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and realized my Persephone streak was over–at least temporarily.

I was drawn to Helen Ashton’s Bricks and Mortar by the engraving used in Persephone catalog(ue). Part of me was hoping the book was illustrated but alas, it is not. No matter, Bricks and Mortar stands on its own merit. Not exactly a great novel. I found more than a few things in the narrative that seemed a little amateurish, even to untrained eye. Some of  the plotting was a little too pat for me. Just count the corpses by the end of this book and you get my drift.

The story focuses on the young archtitect Martin Lovell who falls in love with his soon to be wife Letty Stapleford in a pension in Rome. They have two kids, the outgoing, clever daugther Stacy and the clever, effete (and seemingly gay) son Aubrey. Letty hates Stacy but loves Aubrey. Martin loves Stacy and is bored by Aubrey. Those that survive get old and live happily ever after.

I make light of the plot because it was rather clumsy, but I still thoroughly enjoyed this novel. For the most part I cared about  the characters and I really appreciated the architect’s office setting and the bits of architectural description sprinkled throughout the book. I have worked with architects for about 15 years now (and always wanted to be one growing up) and am familiar with the general milieu, and I have to say that I don’t think an architect would cringe reading this book. You know, like a musician or a nun cringes watching “Sister Act”. The architecture bits were particularly fascinating to me because they chronicle the seep of modern design into architecture in pre-WWII England from a first hand perspective of 1932. That is, without the benefit of hindsight.

Overall not a brilliant book, but  I would still recommend it with these reservations.

7 thoughts on “Book Review: Bricks and Mortar by Helen Ashton

  1. ArchitectDesign™ September 14, 2011 / 3:13 pm

    I love the sister act reference *smirk*
    Is this perhaps the book you had mentioned to me?


  2. StuckInABook September 15, 2011 / 1:57 am

    I bought this novel five or so years ago, on the recommendation of Elaine (Random Jottings) and have STILL not read it. I've got to admit your review hasn't made me want to go and grab it immediately, but it's still where it was in the hypothetical tbr pile – nearer the top than the bottom.


  3. Verity September 15, 2011 / 6:32 am

    I somehow missed rereading this in my recent reread of most of the Persephone novels – I found it charming last tume, and shall certainly seek it out soon again. Thanks for the reminder!


  4. Thomas at My Porch September 18, 2011 / 3:34 pm

    Stefan: You guessed right. I still haven't popped it in the mail yet. I think you will find it interesting.

    Simon: Well it wasn't bad, but in the world of Persephone it just doesn't come out very high on my list.

    Verity: I don't know how you do it.

    Alex: You are right.

    Julia: I loved your post.


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