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Review: Bricks and Mortar, by Helen Ashton

Pages: 304
Original date of publication: 1933
My edition: 2004 (Persephone)
Why I decided to read: Persephone catalogue
How I acquired my copy: Persephone shop, London, September 2011

In Bricks and Mortar, a young architect meets and marries a young woman named Letty, mostly through the finagling of her mother. Unhappy in his home life, over the next thirty years, Martin Lovell looses himself in his work, moving houses every now and then. He also takes comfort in his relationship with his daughter Stacy.

Although not written in the first person, we see everything from Martin’s point of view, so, for example, in the opening scene when he arrives in Rome, the first thing that’s described is the city’s buildings. Ashton’s descriptions of architecture are truly beautiful. Poor Martin gets trodden on right from the first, but he takes comfort in the work he’s passionate about, and in the daughter who possesses a fiery spirit and a passion almost equal to his own. It’s a beautifully written book, contrasting Martin and Stacy against Letty and his son Aubrey (like his mother, weak and useless to Martin). Then there’s Stacy’s interesting relationship with Martin’s young associate, Oliver… we know where that story line goes, but it’s interesting to watch how all of that unfolds.

Martin is a great hero, not in the over sense, but in a quiet, understated way. He knows that his marriage is a mistake and that Letty isn’t quite on his intellectual level, but he tries to make the best of things. As such, the end of the book is truly heartbreaking.
This is Persephone no. 49.


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