Saturday, August 09, 2008

Consequences and Every Eye

I'm late posting about the 2 latest Persephone Books to be added to my 2008 list: Consequences by EM Delafield (No. 13) and Every Eye by Isobel English (No. 18).

Consequences was rather frustrating to read because I found the heroine, Alex, so awkward and neurotic, but at the same time, much as I hate to admit it, there was a part of me that identified with her because, like me, she's the eldest of 3 with a younger sister and brother. And, like me, she feels that she knows best - but I suppose that's true of any older sibling.

There were many cringe-worthy moments because Alex so desperately wanted to be liked...and she reminded me a bit of Muriel in Muriel's Wedding...which was such a hit and touted as a hopeful "feel-good" movie but I felt was annoyance because Muriel struck me as pathetic.

From the website:

EM Delafield is best-known as the author of The Diary of a Provincial Lady (1930). But her favourite among her books was Consequences (1919), the deeply-felt novel she wrote about the plight of girls given no opportunities apart from marriage.

Alex Clare is awkward and oversensitive and gets everything wrong; she refuses to marry the only young man who 'offers' and believes there is nothing left for her but to enter a convent. But that is not quite the end of her tragic story. Nor was it for EM Delafield, who also entered a convent for a year; but in her case she was able to find freedom through working as a VAD in an army hospital, 'which was emancipation of the most delirious kind. It was occupation, it was self-respect.'

Every Eye was short and sweet, though I can't say it's a story that will stay with me, and for that reason I will leave you with the description from Persephone's site:

Isobel English, the pseudonym of June Braybrooke (1920-94), wrote little but what she published was of outstanding quality. 'Sometimes, but not often, a novel comes along which makes the rest of what one has to review seem commonplace. Such a novel is Every Eye,' John Betjeman said in the Daily Telegraph on its first publication.

This 1956 novel is about a girl growing up to what could have been unhappiness but for her marriage to a carefree young(er) man. As she travels south by train to Ibiza she surveys her past life and unravels a mystery. Hence The Tablet's comment: 'This novel is a marvellous discovery. You will want to reread it immediately in the light of its astonishing final paragraph.' Muriel Spark wrote: 'The late Isobel English was an exceptionally talented young novelist of the mid-1950s. Every Eye is one of her most successful and sensitively written books, a romantic yet unsentimental story of a young woman's intricate relationships of family and love, intensely evocative of the period, remarkable in its observations of place and character.' And Anita Brookner called Every Eye 'a lucidly written account of various kinds of confusion and a valuable lesson in where to look for freedom.'

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