Saturday, December 1, 2012

Review: A Favourite of the Gods, by Sybille Bedford

Pages: 311
Original date of publication: 1963
My edition: 1994 (Virago Modern Classics)
Why I decided to read:
How I acquired my copy: Awesomebooks, October 2012

A Favourite of the Gods is an unusual story. Set in the late 1920s it revolves around the impetuous action of a young woman, Costanza, as a result of losing a ring. The story then jumps back in time to Costanza’s childhood, and tells the story also of her mother Anna, an American heiress who married an Italian count. The beginning part of the novel is told from the point of view of Costanza’s daughter, Flavia, although Flavia is never a fully rounded character, only a literary device.

The story does jump around, but in a sense the narrative is a lot like Costanza: impetuous, lively, outgoing, jumpy. Because there’s no real chronology it was a little hard for me to get into the book at first. But once I got used to it, the better the book got for me, because I was immediately drawn to Anna and Costanza, women who were very different and yet so similar to each other.  However, I got a little bit irritated with Costanza after a while, because of her singular disinterest in other people, particularly how her actions affect others. Much more likeable was Anna, who has the strength to leave her husband, the unnamed Count, after he cheats on her (though, realistically, where could she have gone, in the late 19th/early 20th centuries?). I also wish that Flavia had been much more of a character, rather than a narrator, because I was interested to see how the patterns in the women’s lives might perpetuate themselves (or not) in the third generation.

The novel’s main theme is, of course, the relationships between mothers and daughters, but it doesn’t present this theme in a sappy, sentimental way. Rather, A Favourite of the Gods depicts the highly nuanced and often complicated relationships that mothers and daughters have with each other. The novel is also about patterns: how certain patterns in people’s lives seem to repeat themselves even without consciousness of doing so. These things made the book seem all that much more rich for me.

1 comment:

StuckInABook said...

I loved this novel, mostly for the writing style, but I agree with you that the chronology was rather confusing for a while. I'm looking forward to reading more Bedford - including the sequel to this one.


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