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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.


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!

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