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Review: Consequences, by EM Delafield


Pages: 421
Original date of publication: 1919
My edition: 2000 (Persephone)
Why I decided to read:
How I acquired my copy: Persephone subscription, February 2011

Consequences is a totally different book from The Diary of a Provincial Lady, the only other EM Delafield novel I’ve read—but in a good, albeit sad way. Consequences is the story of the eldest daughter of a large, late-Victorian family, well-connected but not particularly rich. The expectation, of course, is that the daughters marry, but Alex can’t seem to get her act together.

From convent school to an engagement Alex breaks off to convent life, and then a return to London, Alex never feels quite at home anywhere she goes. She’s always looking for someone who will love her, so she finds someone to cling on to until she realizes (too late) that they don’t feel the same way about her. As a result, Alex fails miserably at nearly everything she does, much to the disgust and embarrassment of her siblings, who are all (but the youngest, Pamela, who is clearly a child of the post-WWI world) pretty conventional Edwardians. There’s also this minor theme about the differences between the various generations (personified by the differences between the elder Clare children and Pamela, the independent girl-about-town).

So where does Alex, who doesn’t conform with what everyone expects of her, fit in? It’s definitely not a lighthearted story, in fact, brutally bleak in many places. Alex’s inability to comprehend what’s going on is maddening at times, but very realistic and believable. I’m very interested in how societal “misfits” deal with being an outsider, and this book was satisfying in that way. Alex is a polar opposite to the Provincial Lady, who has found success as a housewife and mother, but both are well-developed, well-rounded characters. Definitely worth reading.

This is Persephone No. 13

Comments

Karen K. said…
Still have this on the TBR shelf unread! Lately I seem to be collecting Persephones rather than reading them. I guess it's not a bad thing in the long run, just frustrating. And a little embarassing!

This sounds like a good one, and one I should get to soon. Lovely review.
Aarti said…
I have this one on my Kindle. I think I tried to start reading it, but it seemed to start abruptly in the middle of a scene and I was kind of caught off guard and never got back up. I'll try it again, but after having read Provincial Lady, I think, as that sounds so delightful!
Marg said…
I was just looking at a EM Delafield book the other day, but this one is set in or just after WWI.

I am really tempted to download it!

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