I have heard Simon extol the virtues of 'Miss Hargreaves' so often that it often seemed to me that the book couldn't possibly hope to live up to the expectations. So when Simon offered me a copy of the newly published Bloomsbury edition, I thought I should snap it up and see what all the fuss was about.
Well, Simon has a new convert to the Hargreavean cause, because I love it. Even if it is totally insane - and maybe that's part of the charm!
The book revolves around Norman Huntley and his seeming overactive imagination. Creating a Miss Hargreaves, who travels with her Cockatoo, harp and bath, to get out of a slightly sticky social faux pas, Norman is - quite understandably - shocked to arrive home and find his creation waiting for him.
Now, I don't know about you, but my imagination is pretty fanciful at times, and I have been known to have conversations with invisible people (although they all are actual people, whether or not they are present at the time). Frank Baker's book has elements of 'The Bronte's went to Woolworths' (another Bloomsbury Group republication) although the drama is considerably heightened in Baker's novel.
Norman, you see, is not best pleased that his creation has come to life and is determined to claim friendship and thereby ruin his life, by alienating his employees and the girl he's going out with. It's not as if Norman leads a particularly sane life before Miss Hargreaves arrives - his father is quite clearly batty (although lovable for it), and the entire town seems to be a little off balance - but throw Miss H into the mix, and everything goes mad. Norman, no matter how hard he tries, can't seem to get rid of this woman, who wears outrageous hats and has a cockatoo that sings opera.
When he does manage to finally make her disappear, he regrets it at once - willing her to reappear, she does so, but so markedly different (she is now Lady Hargreaves) that Norman finds himself wishing for the chaos that went before.
Does Norman finally manage to dispel his creation, or does she stay forever to be a reminder not to take imagination too far .... I recommend reading it, but don't whisper the words 'Miss Hargreaves' to the wind too often - you might be surprised who turns up!