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Review: The Judge, by Rebecca West


Pages: 430
Original date of publication: 1922
My edition: 1980 (Virago Modern Classics)
Why I decided to read:
How I acquired my copy: Philly Book Trader, March 2011

The Judge is set in 1910s Edinburgh and focuses on the love story between a young typist and suffragette, Ellen; and Richard Yaverland, a charming explorer who has literally been all over the world. Their relationship is overshadowed by the relationship between Richard’s mother and father, creating an intricate tale about what happens when the past starts to catch up and interfere with the present.

Sigh. No matter how hard I try, I just seem to strike out with Rebecca West’s novels. I wasn’t a big fan of Harriet Hume, and I didn’t particularly like The Judge, either. I think it has something to do with West’s manner of exposition; she doesn’t focus on plot, so that all of the action tends to take place in her characters’ heads. She also has this fantastical ability to know exactly what each of her characters is thinking or feeling, which makes for stilted, ponderous reading and overblown prose. Even the nature of her characters’ thoughts is confusing; they all have the ability to jump all over the place when introspecting.  

I know that other people love Rebecca West’s novels for their depth and complexity, but I just didn’t like any of the characters all that much, to the point where there were many places where I wanted to give up on reading this book. As it was, it was slow going.

Also, incidentally, happy birthday to the author!


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