Granny from Metal Mickey’s novel

The other week I was browsing in a charity shop when I came across something rather unexpected. It was a novel called The Sioux, and it was written by none other than Irene Handl. Handl, of course, was a great British character actress, starring as Lady Bracknell on the stage, and featuring in films such as I’m All Right Jack opposite Peter Sellers, and The Rebel with Tony Hancock. She also turns up in psychedelic oddity Wonderwall and of course, The Italian Job. For my generation, however, she will be best remembered for playing Granny in Metal Mickey, a children’s comedy series from the early eighties produced and directed by Mickey Dolenz from the Monkees in which an hilarious robot lives with a Haircut 100-loving family. Metal Mickey’s catch-phrase was ‘boogieboogie’, putting him in direct competition with Tweeky from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, whose catch-phrase was ‘bidibidibidi’.

Not only was it a surprise to find that Handl had written a novel, but that it came recommended by a whole host of illustrious literary figures – Doris Lessing, Daphne du Maurier, Fay Weldon, and Margaret Drabble. Indeed, it was highly regarded enough for this copy to be a mid-eighties reprint, twenty years after its original publication. I obviously had to buy it.

Buy it I did, and read it I did, and reasonably liked it I did too. It’s about a wealthy French family living in New Orleans, who have an invalid son referred to as the Dauphin. An Englishman marries into the family, and is unamused when is new bride turns out to be a child-damaging monster. The book’s very stagey, with characters just sort of entering scenes, engaging in frivolous conversation, and then exiting again, and there’s a general lack of incident and repetition of phrase (‘Oh, Monsieur is droll!’)that would probably drive most contemporary readers up the wall, but nevertheless it has its own strange atmosphere and style, with some startling moments camouflaged underneath the charming, directionless banter. It’s very dated, however, relying too strongly on the idea that the eccentricities of the upper classes are inherently interesting, something that people stopped believing some time ago, and Handl tells (not shows) with the best of them. Despite all that, it was actually refreshing to read a book that was in absolutely no hurry to get anywhere fast, and was instead content just to hover round a situation while you took it all in. So in short, I quite liked it. Enough to read Handl’s only other novel and sequel to The Sioux, The Gold Tip Pfitzer ? Ah, no.

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4 Responses to “Granny from Metal Mickey’s novel”

  1. Blimey, this has been on my mental ‘must get round to tracking it down’ for years. I had heard that her novels had been well received at the time. Top marks for picking it up and reading it.

  2. Blimey. It’s like discovering that Lou Beale has directed a series of short films. My world has been well and truly rocked today.

    And yes, I am going through your blog archive and commenting on everything. I really should be working.

  3. Hi John, thank you for all your comments. I shall try and make it over to your blog when I have a mo and see if I can think of anything clever to say. Or even something stupid.

  4. Just something to make me look good will be fine. So, nothing about call myself a book blogger when I haven’t even read any Lu Xun? What kind of a terrible human failure are you, ‘Mr’ Self?

    Please. Not that.

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