Review: Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey

My Review:
B FarrarThe Ashby family has maintained their estate in the south of England for many generations.  The current family members who inhabit the estate are best known for their stables of beautiful horses.  Aunt Bee, the matriarch of the family, oversees the care of her ten-year-old nieces Jane and Ruth.  Bee supervises and runs the horse estate with the help of her niece Elenor and nephew Simon who are young adults.  Although to visit them for afternoon tea, one would believe that this is a happy and well-adjusted family, the Ashby’s have suffered some terrible tragedies.

The reason Aunt Bee has had to take over as parent for her three nieces and her nephew is that their parents died in a tragic airplane crash when Jane and Ruth were only a few months old.  Soon after the parents’ death, Simon’s twin brother committed suicide by throwing himself off of a cliff.  This second tragedy particularly surprised the family because Patrick was such a sweet and well-adjusted boy whom no one suspected was on the brink of taking his own life.

One day, a man walks into their life claiming that he is Patrick, the long-lost Ashby; he says that he didn’t commit suicide but instead ran away, assumed the name of Brat Farrar and spent the last eight years in America where he worked on horse ranches.  Aunt Bee is especially eager to believe Brat’s story and the fact that he looks like an Ashby helps to convince everyone in their immediate circle that Patrick is the long-lost heir.  The only one who seems skeptical about Brat’s identity is Simon.  It is Simon who has the most to lose from Patrick’s reappearance since Simon will no longer be the Ashby heir; the family fortune will revert back to Patrick who is the eldest son.

What I found most unique about this story is that Brat is supposed to be the bad buy in this story, the imposter, the crook.  But Brat’s story is very compelling and he is really not after the Ashby fortune.  Brat grew up in an orphanage and he has never had a family of his own.  When the opportunity to become part of an middle class English family presents itself, Brat’s desire for a sense of belonging and a place to call home prove to be a stronger temptation then the lure of money.

Brat is welcomed into the Ashby home and becomes a part of their everyday lives.  He is an expert horse trainer and he gets along especially well with Elenor for whom he develops more than sisterly feelings..  As he spends quality time with the family, he discovers through various clues that Simon has a sinister and mean side to him.  Simon’s reasons for being angry go much deeper than his disinheritance from the Ashby fortune.  I don’t want to give away too much, but the mystery surrounding Patrick’s disappearance and Simon’s involvement in it were very compelling plot lines and I finished the book very quickly.  I guess this would quality Tey’s book as a page turner.

Tey’s books are written in a classics and charming British style one would expect from a 20th century author.  Her characters are interesting in the sense that they are likeable but can be morally flexible.  Finally, the plot alone is reason enough to pick up this book.

I’ve also read Tey’s The Franchise Affair and enjoyed that book as well.  Has anyone else read any of Tey’s books?  I would love to hear about them.

About the Author:

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Josephine Tey was a pseudonym of Elizabeth Mackintosh. Josephine was her mother’s first name and Tey the surname of an English Grandmother. As Josephine Tey, she wrote six mystery novels including Scotland Yard’s Inspector Alan Grant.

The first of these, ‘The Man in the Queue’ (1929) was published under the pseudonym of Gordon Daviot , whose name also appears on the title page of another of her 1929 novels, ‘Kit An Unvarnished History’. She also used the Daviot by-line for a biography of the 17th century cavalry leader John Graham, which was entitled ‘Claverhouse’ (1937).

Mackintosh also wrote plays (both one act and full length), some of which were produced during her lifetime, under the pseudonym Gordon Daviot. The district of Daviot, nea Josephine Tey was a pseudonym of Elizabeth Mackintosh. Josephine was her mother’s first name and Tey the surname of an English Grandmother. As Josephine Tey, she wrote six mystery novels including Scotland Yard’s Inspector Alan Grant.

The first of these, ‘The Man in the Queue’ (1929) was published under the pseudonym of Gordon Daviot , whose name also appears on the title page of another of her 1929 novels, ‘Kit An Unvarnished History’. She also used the Daviot by-line for a biography of the 17th century cavalry leader John Graham, which was entitled ‘Claverhouse’ (1937).

Mackintosh also wrote plays (both one act and full length), some of which were produced during her lifetime, under the pseudonym Gordon Daviot. The district of Daviot, near her home of Inverness in Scotland, was a location her family had vacationed. The name Gordon does not appear in either her family or her history.

Elizabeth Mackintosh came of age during World War I, attending Anstey Physical Training College in Birmingham, England during the years 1915-1918. Upon graduation, she became a physical training instructor for eight years. In 1926, her mother died and she returned home to Inverness to care for her invalid father. Busy with household duties, she turned to writing as a diversion, and was successful in creating a second career.

Alfred Hitchcock filmed one of her novels, ‘A Shilling for Candles’ (1936) as ‘Young and Innocent’ in 1937 and two other of her novels have been made into films, ‘The Franchise Affair’ (1948), filmed in 1950, and ‘Brat Farrar’ (1949), filmed as ‘Paranoiac’ in 1963. In addition a number of her works have been dramatised for radio.

Her novel ‘The Daughter of Time’ (1951) was voted the greatest mystery novel of all time by the Crime Writers’ Association in 1990.

Miss Mackintosh never married, and died at the age of 55, in London. A shy woman, she is reported to have been somewhat of a mystery even to her intimate friends. While her death seems to have been a surprise, there is some indication she may have known she was fatally ill for some time prior to her passing.

 

 

9 Comments

Filed under British Literature, Classics, Mystery/Thriller

9 responses to “Review: Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey

  1. kaggsysbookishramblings

    Great review! I read everything by Tey back in the day, and I highly recommend The Daughter of Time!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am a big fan of Josephone Tey. Brat Farrar may be her best book (IMO), although I’d lay odds that The Daughter of Time is her best known. I’ve read both of those (although the latter was 45 years ago and deserves a reread) as well as Man in the Queue, and A Shilling for Candles which are the first two Detective Grant mysteries. I do have the rest of her mysteries as well as Miss Pym Disposes on my TBR shelf.

    I believe that Tey’s plays were far more successful during her life-time than her novels although they did well enough. In fact a very young John Gielgud made his name as star of Tey’s stage production of Richard of Bordeaux, written in 1932.

    I also enjoy Nicole Upson’s mystery series that stars Josephine Tey.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for reminding me about Josephine Tey. I’ve loved the couple of books of hers that I’ve read and it really is time I read more of her work.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I was into reading all the Josephine Tey at one point and really enjoying them, but now I can’t quite remember which ones. I know I read The Franchise Affair, Miss Pym Disposes, and The Daughter of Time, as well as Brat Farrar. I love the psychological complexity of her stories! I’d also like to try the Nicola Upson series but haven’t gotten there yet.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve only read The Franchise Affair but would love to try more by Tey. I’ll definitely keep this one in mind.

    Like

  6. This plot sounds so much like a book I am reading now: Painting the Darkness by Robert Goddard. In that book, a woman’s fiance, long believed to be dead, returns, throwing her marriage and the man’s family into turmoil. Is he genuine, and how much does the woman know? Even if some of the broad strokes of the plot are similar, the quality of the writing makes a tremendous difference. Goddard writes very well, effectively adopting a Victorian style, I know Josephine Tey is an exceptional stylist, greatly admired. And she came first!

    Like

  7. This plot sounds so much like a book I am reading now: Painting the Darkness by Robert Goddard. In that book, a woman’s fiance, long believed to be dead, returns, throwing her marriage and the man’s family into turmoil. Is he genuine, and how much does the woman know? Even if some of the broad strokes of the plot are similar, the quality of the writing makes a tremendous difference. Goddard writes very well indeed, effectively adopting a Victorian style, but I know Josephine Tey is an exceptional stylist, greatly admired. And she came first!

    Like

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