Original date of publication: 1932
My edition: 1981 (Dial Press)
Why I decided to read: heard about this through LT
How I acquired my copy: the Philly Book Trader, December 2010
Although written in the 1920s, The Ladies of Lyndon is set in Edwardian England and during and after the First World War. Agatha is one of the most sought-after debutantes of her season, and she marries John Clewer in order to become mistress of Lyndon. Her marriage is unhappy, and she finds comfort in her relationship with an old flame.
This is a novel that explores various characters’ search for satisfaction in their lives—oddly enough, it’s John’s brother James who is happiest with his life, although everyone thinks he’s rather “off.” However, because James is the one who’s most comfortable with himself and his life, he’s one of the most endearing characters in this book—along with his wife, Dolly the former housemaid. By marrying her, James raises a lot of eyebrows, but he really and truly doesn’t care what people think—and this is what makes his one of the more self-fulfilled characters in this book.
Agatha, however, is another story. Married at a young age, she’s not quite as self-aware as some of the other characters are, and so she basically gets pushed into her marriage with John. So the road she follows to achieve happiness is interesting and unconventional, to say the least. It’s the characters that drive this novel; and although the plot is in itself interesting, it’s not quite as interesting as the people that populate it. This story could so easily have been cliché, but it’s not. Instead, it’s a wonderfully charming book. This was Margaret Kennedy’s first book (incidentally, it was published when she was my age, 27), and it shows the promise of great things to come. I’ve been trying to track down copies of some of Kennedy’s other books, and can’t wait to read more!