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Review: The Winds of Heaven, by Monica Dickens

Pages: 320
Original date of publication: 1955
My edition: 2010 (Persephone)
Why I decided to read: It’s a Persephone reprint
How I acquired my copy: Persephone subscription, April 2011

In The Winds of Heaven, a woman in late middle age is left nearly destitute when her husband dies. Forced to live off her three daughters, Louise spends her time going back and forth between the three of them. One is married to a successful attorney; another to a rural farmer; and the third works as an actress in London, having an affair with a married man.

It’s a bittersweet little story; Louise is treated as elderly, although she’s only 57, and treated as though she’s yesterday’s trash by her daughters and their husbands. On the other hand, she begins a friendship with a man who works in the mattress section of a large department store, offering her some kind of companionship in her “old age.” Dudley is the only one who treats Louise really well, not expecting anything back from her, but it’s not until it’s nearly too late that she realizes what a good friend he is. The other touching part of the story is Louise’s relationship with her young granddaughter, another person who doesn’t expect much from her.

I love Monica Dickens’s descriptions of the characters; although everyone seems to blend together at first, each of the three daughters quickly becomes delineated. They are all completely different, but similar in their indifference towards their mother. This book reminds me a lot of Vita Sackville-West’s All Passion Spent, a novel about a widow’s struggle to assert her own independence after her children have grown up and her husband has passed away. The story also reminds me a lot of Dorothy Whipple’s They Were Sisters, a story that’s mostly about the relationship between three sisters, but similar in describing the lives of very different people.
This is Persephone no. 90.


Aarti said…
I've had Monica Dickens' book Two Hands on my wish list for some time, but didn't know about this book at all. It seems that so many books about women written in the post-war period deal with them being alone and burdens on their families- very sad.
Rose said…
I agree with Aarti, it sounds like a sad book but I'm adding it to my list for next year nonetheless.

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