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Review: Harriet Hume, by Rebecca West


Pages: 288

Original date of publication: 1929

My edition: 1980 (The Dial Press)

Why I decided to read: read this for Virago Reading Week

How I acquired my copy: The Philly Book Trader, October 2010

Man, this is a weird one, one I don’t quite know how to describe; and maybe it went over my head a bit too much! This novel tells the story of the relationship between two people: the free-spirited musician Harriet, who lives in a lopsided house in London, and her lover, Arnold, a politician The story takes their relationship/friendship through many years, at which they meet up periodically.

This was a very, very slow read for me, and one I didn’t enjoy very much. Part of my problem with this book was Rebecca West’s writing style; the only way I can describe it is bizarre! For example: “But the governess had turned her gaze on them, and had on seeing the marks of deep emotion on the faces made a long leap through the ether to some universe thickly upholstered with seductions.” (p. 106). At times, West’s prose style makes no sense, so much so that I had to go back and re-read bits and pieces here and there.

I enjoyed West’s characters; part of the charm of this odd couple is that they are so different. But Arnold is so clinical and detached that I really didn’t like him after a while; and Harriet was so flaky that I got frustrated with her. Also, the dialogue isn’t all that believable; these characters talk as though they come from a different time period, which makes this book quirky and charming, but I got tired of it quickly. I get the whole allegory bit about this novel, but it was a little too deep for me. This is the first book by Rebecca West I’ve read, and it might just be my last; I just didn’t care for this novel.

Comments

Thanks for the heads up...won't be adding this one to my TBR list.

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