Skip to main content

Review: Told By An Idiot, by Rose Macaulay

Pages: 315

Original date of publication: 1923

My edition: 1983 (Virago)

Why I decided to read: Heard about this through the Virago Modern Classics list

How I acquired my copy: Ebay, July 2010

Told By An Idiot is the story of one family from 1880 through the early 1920s. Mr. Garden is a clergyman who frequently switches faiths; then there’s his wife, who quietly devotes herself to her family; and then there are their six unusually-named children, who are adults (or nearly so) when the novel opens.

Times, they are a’changin’. That’s essentially the theme of the novel as we watch the Garden family grow and mature. We watch the younger generation marry and have children; and then we watch their children grow up, too. This book is not only an interesting look at one family, but the times in which they live at the end of the 19th century, how things change, and how the Garden family reacts to it. I feel as though the author used this novel to comment, albeit subtly and satirically, on the times. She focuses mostly on the fin de si├Ęcle period, jumping over WWI (since it was still so much in everyone’s minds anyways at the time the book was written).

Macaulay’s comments on late-19th and early 20th century life are never pedantic; I loved her wry sense of humor and insightful comments on her characters and the period in which they lived. My favorite quote in this book, from which the book gets its title, pretty much sums up the whole book: “Life was to [Rome] at this time more than ever a tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing.” It’s an interesting take on events that had so much of an impact on people. Rome Garden is perhaps the only one of the family who chooses to watch things from the sidelines, and so we kind of see things from her point of view. I’m not expressing it quite the way I want to, by Rose Macaulay’s message hit home for me. This is an absolutely stunning book, recommended to anyone who enjoys reading about this period in history.


Willa said…
Sounds like an enchanting book.
I'm glad to her such a positive review about this book. I've been going through a Sophie Kinsella withdrawal - I honestly didn't think she'd have another book this soon after hearing she had her 4th baby!
My wife and I are reading "Told by an Idiot" now, and are loving it.

We loved the other things we read by her, also.

We've just come to the part where the guru of Higher Thinking kept praying too long for the fellow with the uneven length legs, until the length of the shorter one outstripped that of the longer one, and kept on growing. Hilarious!

Popular posts from this blog

Read in 2017

January: 1. London: the Novel, by Edward Rutherfurd 2. Notes from a Small Island, by Bill Bryson 3. A Very English Scandal, by John Preston 4. Imagined London, by Anna Quindlen 5. The Black Dahlia, by James Ellroy 6. In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote February 1. Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen 2. The Girls of Slender Means, by Muriel Spark 3. Patience, by John Coates 4. Into the Whirlwind, by Eugenia Ginzburg 5. The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James 6. Few Eggs and No Oranges, by Vere Hodgson 7. Vittoria Cottage, by DE Stevenson March: 1. The Exiles Return, by Elizabeth de Waal 2. Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen 3. The Death of the Heart, by Elizabeth Bowen 4. The Buccaneers, by Edith Wharton 5. The Death of the Heart, by Elizabeth Bowen 6. White Teeth, by Zadie Smith April: 1. The Heat of the Day, by Elizabeth Bowen 2. The Two Mrs. Abbotts, by DE Stevenson 3. The Road to Little Dribbling, by Bill Bryson May: 1. London War Notes, by Mollie Panter-Dow

Review: Jane Austen's Letters, ed. by Deirdre Le Faye

Pages: 667 Original date of publication: 2011 My copy:   2011 (Oxford University Press) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy:, April 2013 This is a compilation of many of Jane Austen’s letters, most of them sent to her sister Cassandra between 1796 and 1817, the year of her death. Although many of Austen’s letters were destroyed by her sister in order to preserve the family reputation, the collection contains over 160 letters in which Austen gives her sister details about her life in Chawton—as well as giving us a tantalizing glimpse of what was going through her mind as she was writing her novels (especially the novel that was to become Pride and Prejudice , First Impressions ). There are other letters here, too, giving advice to her niece and professional correspondence to publishers—as well as a couple of letters that were written by Cassandra Austen after Jane’s death. To the sisters, the letters acted in the way that phone calls do today; A

Review: The Far Cry, by Emma Smith

Pages: 324 Original date of publication: 1949 My edition: 2007 (Persephone) Why I decided to read: It’s been on my TBR pile since I purchased it six months ago How I acquired my copy: from the Persephone shop, September 2009 The Far Cry was inspired by the author’s experiences in India. In 1945, at the age of 21, Emma Smith (who describes herself as “a green young woman” in her preface to this edition) traveled to India with a film production crew as a junior script writer/gopher. While she was there, Smith kept a journal of her experiences and thoughts to detail her “magical Cinderella-like transformation” into a worldlier person. In the preface of the novel, Emma Smith writes brilliantly about what kind of impact her travels to India had upon her, a first-time visitor. What she wrote in her journal went largely into the writing of this novel; and the stronger it is for it, I think, because this is an absolutely stunning book. When Mr. Digby’s ex wife returns from Amer