Three books in a bumper review which also includes my entry for the 1924 Club hosted by Simon at Stuckinabook and Karen at Kaggsysbookishramblings – I’m so pleased that I joined in with this jolly and relaxed reading of books published in a particular year, because I got to read a book I wouldn’t have got round to for ages, AND another really good one, so win-win there, I feel. Simon and Kaggsy have also collected older reviews as it’s always the case that when you start a challenge you’ve just read a book that will fit perfectly, so if you fancy reading some great books from that year, do pop and have a look at their blogs. And a public thank you to both for a lovely, simple challenge that I managed to achieve!
Vita Sackville-West – “Seducers in Ecuador” and “The Heir” (Virago)
(12 October 2015)
Both of these are novellas, “Seducers in Ecuador” being particularly short, so they are usually found together and this Virago edition is the classic one – I was lucky enough to snaffle it from Amazon Marketplace, almost unread.
Seducers is an odd little fable about a man who tries to do the right thing while on a rather odd yachting trip with some disparate characters. Mainly through believing what people tell him, and what he tells himself about them, he ends up doing quite the wrong thing, especially for himself. Vita plays with the reader, laying down the essence of the story at the outset and then letting it twist and writhe in her hands. It’s mysterious and intriguing and has a lot to say about what people hear and believe in different contexts.
This book completes another year in my Century of Reading!
The longer “The Heir” concentrates on Peregrine Chase, Wolverhampton clerk, who inherits a small but perfect Elizabethan manor house and falls under its spell. This first read was very much about what will happen as the commercial world does its best to close in around the house and its inhabitants, but I will happily re-read it for the absolutely gorgeous descriptions of the house and the Kentish countryside. In a book where the hero starts off not planning to do the right thing, these passages have the same effect on the reader and the protagonist. Marvellous – and I’m even more happy that I got to read this.
This book will suit … lovers of Vita’s work, people who care about the countryside, people who love beautiful descriptions
John Galsworthy – “Flowering Wilderness”
Book 2 of “The End of the Chapter”, the last Forsyte Saga trilogy, focuses very much again on Dinny, daughter of an ancient house, independent but loving her country and her land, her family and her village. In the opening scene, three characters contemplate a statue in London. In Dance to the Music of Time fashion, they are all connected in some way, and it is thus that Dinny encounters Wilfred Desert, returned from the trip East he took after failing to tempt (Dinny’s cousin Michael’s wife) Fleur away from Michael in the last trilogy.
It’s love at first sight for both of them, but of course there’s a problem: Wilfred converted to Islam in the desert, something that’s very much Not Done, and even though he can explain his actions, as soon as the news comes out (which it does through his own need for truth as a poet), it sends ripples through the Establishment, and is seen as Very Bad Form indeed.
Once again, as with the first book in this trilogy, the actions of an Englishman abroad are questioned, and it’s an interesting dilemma which gives a good added dimension to the book, although it’s harrowing for poor Dinny, who is really put through the wringer (as is Desert’s faithful batman and, indeed, his dog) as she faces a conflict between everything she holds dear – even the Uncles, who try to straighten things out – and the only man she’s truly loved.
This book will suit … Well, I think you have to read these all together to get the full effect, but it maintains the interest and strength of the series and makes one keen to get on to the next one.
Currently reading – I’m weeping reading Laurie Penny’s dispatches from the front line of the new discourse of opposition to the government by the youth movements of the early 2010s – they were published in the New Statesman just before I started subscribing, so I missed these pieces and the knowledge I could gain from them then.