Skip to main content

Review: The Loved and Envied, by Enid Bagnold


Pages: 280

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.

Comments

Oh no - you're not having much luck at all. Fingers crossed the next book ticks all the boxes and is an enjoyable read!
Danielle said…
I'm not familiar with this author--too bad it didn't work for you, but the backstory of it all is really interesting. This is a theme that Elizabeth von Arnim also wrote about (and likely loads of other authors, too).
Frances said…
That's disappointing! With that Mitford connected build up I was getting very excited about the possibilities of this one as I am sure you were too. On to the next book... :)
Aarti said…
I think this happens to me a lot- sometimes a book seems SO promising and then can be disappointing and you end up feeling so deflated afterwards! This often happens to me with classics, or if I don't like a book from a particular imprint (such as Virago or Persephone or NYRB) that I trust- quite the letdown!

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: Amazon.com, 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: Amazon.com, 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…