They all knew the family legend by heart and Valentine remembered that when still very young, he had to repeat after his mother every day: ‘The first Avery-Stripe on record dates back to 1825. His name was Excelsior and he amassed himself a sizeable fortune exporting Peruvian guano…’
The Avery-Stripes, an unconventional English family, both irksome and endearing in equal measure, suffer from delusions of grandeur. The fourth Avery-Stripe, Montgomery, begat Horatio and then accidentally blew his brains out whilst shooting rabbits.
Sixteen years after his demise, Montgomery’s widow, Olivia, returns from her time abroad to the Bedford Park house of Bartholomew (uncle to Montgomery), to dictate the import of Avery-Stripe – its honour, traditions and the burden of noblesse oblige – to her four children: Horatio, tall and good-looking, docile and desirous of a halcyon existence; Valentine, a resourceful and effete aesthete who lives permanently in pyjamas; Wilhelmina, nicely upholstered and reluctantly tomboyish because she wishes to be a lady; and sweet, mute and special Cornelius. She is also in possession of a secret which will cause mayhem.
The Avery-Stripes is a remarkable first novel. Reminiscent of Ronald Firbank, this huge, absorbing romantic tale will startle and delight its readers.