Original date of publication: 1952
My edition: 1985 (Virago)
Why I decided to read: LT recommendation
How I acquired my copy: the Philadelphia Book Trader, October 2010
Margaret Kennedy’s 1953 novel tells the history of Miles Lufton, a self-made MP from a large family and the owner of Troy Chimneys, an estate in Wiltshire. Although the house’s name is the title of the novel, the focus is on Miles and his rise to prominence in the early 19th century. The book follows Miles’s political career less than it does his personal life, told in a series of letters and “memoir” entries, paired with letters from Miles’s Victorian descendants, who are rather horrified at his behavior.
Margaret Kennedy’s novel has a very Jane Austen feeling to it, since she focuses mostly on what goes on the drawing room, so to speak; there’s this lovely, idyllic, and pastoral quality to Troy Chimneys that you just don’t find in the world of politics that Miles moves in. Miles buys the house as a means of security against the day when he retires from politics; yet the great irony of the situation is that he does before he has a chance to enjoy it.
Our hero has two different personae in this novel: Miles, the upright, correct politician; and Pronto, a gambling, flirt who lives on the wild side, so to speak. They are constantly at odds with one another, as you might imagine. At first, while I was reading this, I was confused by these two sides to Miles’s character, but the more I read, the more I began to see what Pronto represented in Miles’s life; Pronto is the side of Miles that gets to do all the things that Miles dreams of but can’t bring himself to do or be.