Skip to main content

Review: Mad Puppetstown, by Molly Keane


Pages: 304
Original date of publication: 1931
My edition: 1990 (Virago)
Why I decided to read: Read it for All Virago/All August
How I acquired my copy: Ebay, Augst 2010


Mad Puppetstown contains all the hallmarks of a Molly Keane novel; a large, rambling estate in Ireland; a slightly dysfunctional family; and, of course, house-parties in which hunting is featured. Easter, Evelyn (male, so I’m assuming it’s pronounced like Evelyn Waugh), and Basil are cousins who grow up together at Puppetstown. The novel opens in 1908 and takes the cousins through the Great War and, more importantly, the Easter Rising, during which the cousins must flee to England. They harbor hopes, however, that they will return to Puppetstown and restore it to its former glory.

The novel starts off slowly, idyllically; this is the point in the novel at which the reader is supposed to feel the magic of Puppetstown and why the cousins are so attached to it. After all, it’s where Easter, Evelyn and Basil grew up, if only for a short time. In this way, the estate itself becomes a character in the book. Molly Keane does this often in her books, and she does it very well; inanimate objects and houses take on lives of their own.

Molly Keane is also skilled at character development. The novel opens in 1908 or thereabouts, when the cousins are young children; it closes about ten years later, when the cousins have entered into society. Easter is the focal point of the group, and Keane captures her growth through adolescence marvelously—right down to her frustrated unrequited love for her cousin. It’s very poignant and true-to-life; what young girl hasn’t experienced something like that? There are a couple of overly-described hunting scenes that kind of lost me for a while, but all in all, this is another really strong novel from a favorite author.

Comments

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…