Skip to main content

Review: Mary Lavelle, by Kate O'Brien

Pages: 345

Original date of publication: 1936

My edition: 1985 (Virago Modern Classics)

Why I decided to read:

How I acquired my copy: LTER member, September 2010

Kate O’Brien is a perfect example of why I continue to read an author’s books, even if I didn’t like the first book I read by them. I didn’t like The Ante-Room, Kate O’Brien’s novel about a woman in 1880s Ireland who is in love with her sister’s husband; but I had much more success with Mary Lavelle, a novel that is far more romantic in tone.

The Ante-Room and Mary Lavelle share a common theme: forbidden love. In this book, a young Irish woman leaves her fiancĂ©e at home and goes to Spain, where she becomes an English teacher to the three daughters of a wealthy family. Things become a lot more complicated when Mary meets Juanito, the girls’ older brother. The action of the novel takes place in various parts of Spain; the country itself even becomes a character. Kate O’Brien is a master of describing, and I loved the way that she described the places that Mary visits. There’s a very dreamy, last feel to this book, almost as if you can feel the heat of the Spanish summer that O’Brien describes.

As I’ve said before, this book is very romantic in tone, and that may have contributed to why I enjoyed this book so much. There’s not quite the same amount of melodrama that The Ante-Room has, not so much self-sacrifice on the part of the main character. In that way, Mary Lavelle is a much softer character, much more sympathetic and human. You almost feel sorry for the situation she fiends herself in because it’s not something that she can totally control.


Teddy Rose said…
You really expand my classics TBR. At least this one is still in print and bonus, my library has it.

Popular posts from this blog

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Pages: 972 Originally published: 1944 My edition: 2000 (Chicago Review Press) How I acquired my copy:, 2004

Forever Amber takes place in the 1660s, immediately follwing Charles II's ("the Merry Monarch") return of the Stuarts to the English throne. The book features Amber St. Claire, a young woman who starts out as a sixteen-year-old country girl, naieve to the workings of the world. She immediately meets Bruce Carlton, a dashing young Cavalier, with whom she has a passionate love affair in choppy intervals throughout the book. They have two children together, but Bruce won't marry her for the reason he tells his friend Lord Almsbury: that Amber just isn't the kind of woman one marries.

Upon following Bruce to London, he goes to Virginia, leaving her to fend for herself. What follows is a series of affairs and four marriages, with Bruce coming back from America now and then. Amber's marriages are imprudent: her first husband is a gambler, her second is…

Review: Jane Austen's Letters, ed. by Deirdre Le Faye

Pages: 667 Original date of publication: 2011 My copy: 2011 (Oxford University Press) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy:, April 2013
This is a compilation of many of Jane Austen’s letters, most of them sent to her sister Cassandra between 1796 and 1817, the year of her death. Although many of Austen’s letters were destroyed by her sister in order to preserve the family reputation, the collection contains over 160 letters in which Austen gives her sister details about her life in Chawton—as well as giving us a tantalizing glimpse of what was going through her mind as she was writing her novels (especially the novel that was to become Pride and Prejudice, First Impressions). There are other letters here, too, giving advice to her niece and professional correspondence to publishers—as well as a couple of letters that were written by Cassandra Austen after Jane’s death.
To the sisters, the letters acted in the way that phone calls do today; Austen’s news is all about pe…

Review: Midnight in Peking, by Paul French

Pages: 259 Original date of publication: 2013 My copy: 2013 (Penguin) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Phoenix bookstore, May 2013
In January 1937, the body of a young British girl, Pamela Werner, was found near Peking’s Fox Tower. Although two detectives, one British and the other Chinese, spent months on the case, the case was never solved completely, and the case was forgotten in the wake of the invasion of the Japanese. Frustrated, Pamela’s father, a former diplomat, tried to solve the crime. His investigation took him into the underbelly of Peking society and uncovered a secret that was worse than anything he could have imagined.
At first, I thought that this would be a pretty straightforward retelling of a true crime, but what Paul French (who spent seven years researching the story) reveals in this book is much more than that. Foreign society in Peking in the 1930s was stratified, with the British colonials at the top and the White Russian refugees at the bottom, but…