Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from November, 2012

Review: Miss Buncle Married, by DE Stevenson

Pages: 387 Original date of publication: 1936 My edition: 2011 (Persephone) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Persephone website, June 2011
When we last saw Miss Buncle, she was just about to marry her publisher, Arthur Abbott. Her novel, Disturber of the Peace, disturbed the peace in the town of Silverstream, and the novel opens with a decision to move from there in light of the censure Barbara, now of course married, received for writing it. Barbara begins married life in Wandlebury, a new town with a whole new set of characters from which to gain inspiration. But Barbara claims she has eschewed novel writing and turns her attention to her new house, friends, and family, including Arthur’s nephew Sam.
Barbara is just as charming as ever; she’s incredibly perceptive of the people she encounters, from the village busybodies, to the town doctor (who happens to be an old friend of Arthur’s), to an eccentric old aristocrat who changes her will according to the whim of a moment. It…

Review: The Constant Nymph, by Margaret Kennedy

Pages: 326 Original date of publication: 1924 My edition: 1984 (Virago Modern Classics) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Philly bookshop, August 2011
The Constant Nymph is one of those coming of age stories. This story is that of Tessa Sanger, the daughter of an unusual bohemian composer who lives in a chalet in the Austrian Alps with his ragtag group of children. Albert Sanger has a habit of randomly inviting other artists to the chalet, and the story opens when Lewis Dodd, a composer, arrives at the chalet.
Well, I didn’t really like this novel very much, which was disappointing considering I liked some of Margaret Kennedy’s other novels (Together and Apart was fantastic, for example). Although I like unusual characters, Tessa was far too “out there” for me to really understand or like her as a character, nor could I really understand the connection between her and Lewis or why the author tried to present it in such a mature light—even though Tessa was only a teenager and L…

Review: Women Against Men, by Storm Jameson

Pages: 293 Original date of publication: 1932, 1933, 1930 My edition:1982 (Virago Modern Classics) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Philly bookshop, August 2011
Women Against Men is a collection of three novels published in 1932, 1933, and 1937. Delicate Monster is the story of a writer and her many husbands, told from the point of view of a family friend; The Single Heart is the story of a young woman’s marriage and subsequent reconnection with an old flame; and A Day Off is the story of a middle-aged fallen on hard times woman who looks back on her life.
The theme is as the title states, about the relationships and sometimes conflicts between women and men. But it’s also about the conflicts between women, particularly as seen in Delicate Monster (you get a sense of jealousy from the narrator over her friend’s exploits). Other than that theme, though, there’s not much to connect these three novellas. They don’t work either as short stories or longer-length books, so I got th…

Review: Minnie's Room, by Mollie Panter-Downes

Pages: 125 Original date of publication: My edition: 2008 Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: October 2011, Persephone subscription
In Minnie’s Room, a collection of 11 stories published between 1947 and 1965, Mollie Panter-Downes explores some of the same themes she explores in her novel, One Fine Day. In the 1940s and beyond, people were struggling to adapt to their new circumstances, because things were, indeed, dire (for example, as the introduction to this book says, “bread had been newly rationed in 1946”). It was rough going for everyone, especially the middle classes, who were hit especially hard by the imposition of increased income tax to deal with postwar shortages. So the stories in this collection reflect on a small scale the larger issues that were going on in England and the world at that time.
Although there is no immediate theme to this collection, her stories are all about people dealing with the aftermath of WWII and the effect it had on ordinary people. So alt…

Review: Washington Square, by Henry James

Pages: 183 Original date of publication: 1880 My edition: 2010 (Oxford World’s Classics) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Amazon, September 2012
Published in 1880, Washington Square looks back to an earlier period of New York City’s history, when upper-crust society lived at or adjacent to Washington Square, before society eventually migrated uptown. Set in the first half of the nineteenth century and based on a story that was once told to Henry James, this novel tells the story of Catherine Sloper the daughter of a respected physician and the heiress to a fortune of $10,000. One evening she meets Morris Townsend, a young man of whom Dr. Sloper is immediately suspicious, for wanting to marry Catherine for her money. Although Dr. Sloper forbids his daughter to marry or even see Mr. Townsend, as the risk of her losing her fortune, she does so anyways, with the help of her aunt, Mrs. Penniman.
Washington Square in the early nineteenth century wasn’t so much a location as it was a…

Review: Herself Surprised, by Joyce Cary

Pages: 250 Original date of publication: 1941 My edition: 1999 (NYRB Classics) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Joseph Fox bookstore, Philadelphia, January 2012
Herself Surprised is the story of Sara Monday, who narrates her story from girlhood onwards. The novel opens in a courtroom, where a middle-aged Sara is on trial for a crime of which we’re not given the details, so I thought it was interesting to see how Sara gets to the place she’s in. As a young woman, she works as cook, where she attracts the attention of Mr. Monday, who marries her; many years later, Sara develops a relationship with an unreliable bounder and artist named Gulley Jimson, who continues to plague her life despite not being all that good for her.
On the back of the book, Sara is frequently compared to Moll Flanders, another kind of fallen woman. There are certainly a lot of similarities between the two stories for it to be coincidental: the servant who marries the master of the house; the good-for-not…