Original date of publication: 1951
My edition: 1990 (Penguin/Virago)
Why I decided to read: Read this as a part of Virago Reading Week
How I acquired my copy: The Philly Book Trader, January 2011
Lady Diana Cooper was a famous socialite of the 1910s and the wife of Duff Cooper. She and the life she led were fictionalized in several books, including Nancy Mitford’s Don’t Tell Alfred and The Loved and Envied, which was written by Lady Diana’s longtime friend, Enid Bagnold. The Loved and Envied is the story of Lady Ruby Maclean, and deals with the theme of aging, especially the effect that aging has on a beautiful woman.
This is the third book I read for Virago Reading Week; unfortunately, it just wasn’t my week! I didn’t really care for this book, either. The author tends to hit her reader over the head—over and over—with her theme. Lady Ruby is supposed to be this fascinating woman, attractive to everyone she meets; and yet I didn’t see the appeal at all. Most of the novel takes place later in life, as she’s looking back on what happened and what could have been.
There’s a certain amount of sentimentalism here, but it’s not a particularly emotional book, which I didn’t like. The events of the novel, even the ones that are supposed to have an emotional impact, are told in a matter-of-fact way. I found that I couldn’t finish this book, especially since what could have been a fascinating subject was made very dull by the author’s writing style. It’s too bad, because there was so much promise here.