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Review: Taking Chances, by Molly Keane

Pages: 272

Original date of publication: 1929

My edition: 1988 (Virago)

Why I decided to read: I’m in the process of reading everything by Molly Keane and this one seemed to fit my mood.

How I acquired my copy: Ebay, August 2010

After reading The Rising Tide, I’m now on a mission to read everything by Molly Keane (who wrote under the pseudonym MJ Farrell). Taking Chances is one of her earlier books, published as MJ Farrell, and is the story of three siblings: Roguey, Maeve, and Jer, although the story is told with Jer’s sensibility. The story opens with Maeve’s marriage to Rowley, a neighboring landowner, and the arrival of Maeve’s bridesmaid, Mary, from London. The women are as different as different could be, and Rowley and Mary are instantly attracted to one another.

Taking Chances is another really good one from Molly Keane. Her books usually feature great, sprawling piles in the Irish countryside, and her characters are very much in to hunting and horses (Molly Keane was born into “a rather serious Hunting and Fishing Church-going family,” so it makes sense that so many of her novels should be focused on this theme). Taking Chances does indeed center around a family estate, Sorristown, of which Roguey is the master. He and his siblings are very tightly knit, and so the intrusion of Rowley and Mary and their love affair makes for an interesting complication in the siblings’ relationships with each other.

I love, love, love the way in which Molly Keane describes her characters’ emotions. As I said before, although the book is mostly about the three siblings, the story is told from Jer’s point of view—Jer, the youngest, with his stammer. It seems as though he’s the only one who knows exactly what’s going on between Mary and Rowley, and I was interested in his reaction to all that goes on. At the same time, I felt very sorry for him—he’s the least strong of the three siblings, but he has to bear the full brunt of everyone’s actions. And poor Meave, too—maybe to be ignorant truly is bliss? Until the end, she’s the only one who’s truly content with the situation. This novel gives its reader a lot to think upon, and it’s because of that that this book is so powerful. It’s too bad that Molly Keane’s books are by and large unknown, because she was truly a fabulous writer.


Mystica said…
I like family sagas of the era. Maybe something in the style of Pamela Oldfield.

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