Privileged Children by Frances Vernon

This was such a fortunate discovery.

I was looking up another Faber Finds author when the name ‘Frances Vernon’ and some interesting book titles caught my eye. I read that she won the Author’s Club Award for Best First Novel in 1982, with a book that she wrote when she was just seventeen years-old; and that she wrote five more novels that were very well received before her tragically early death, a little less than ten years later.

Now that I have read that first novel, ‘Privileged Children’, I am captivated. To make such a debut, at such a young age, was extraordinary, and I am quite sure that had she lived, had she continued to write, her new books would be anticipated as we anticipate new works by writers like Hilary Mantel, Margaret Atwood, Sarah Waters ….

I’m maybe being a little reckless, saying that after reading just one book, a book that isn’t a mature work, a book that is a little gauche, but there is something about it, something I can’t quite explain, that says to me that Frances Vernon was a very special author.

n333839The story opens in London, in Bloomsbury, in the spring of 1909. A child was struggling home with two heavy baskets of shopping. It was clear that her family had fallen on hard times, that the child knew that she had to play her part in the household.  And then more became clear. Alice’s mother was a high class prostitute; the household was supported by wealthy men who supported Diana with the understanding that she would be available and she would be discreet.

Diana had seen no other way to keep her home and her child when her husband died, and she hoped that what she did would give Alice the chance of a better life. She wanted Alice to know that women could be strong and capable; the wanted Alice to be able to achieve her ambition, to become an artist.

That was a very fine start to a novel; it was beautifully written, it was perfectly paced; and I wanted to say that this is wrong but I had to concede that Diana was doing the best that she could, and that she was doing it for the best of reasons.

It was a very clever piece of writing.

Diana died of tuberculosis when Alice was just fourteen years-old, and Alice was sent to live in the country with a distant relation. She hated it, she wanted to get back to her mother’s bohemian circle of friends in London, and she succeeded. Because Alice hadn’t learned more from Diana than she had been taught. She had learned to manipulate people, and she had learned to use her sexuality to her own advantage.

Alice established herself in a bohemian household, she took up painting and she sailed through life, quite oblivious to conventions like fidelity in marriage and  involvement in raising her children. She was a little like Margery Sharp’s Martha, though she was a very different woman in a very different age. I couldn’t say that I liked her, but I was fascinated by her, and I have to acknowledge that she was consistent, that she lived by her own rules.

She taught her children to live the same way.

Frances Vernon caught the age and its concerns, and the artists and writers in Alice’s household, quite beautifully.

The pace is brisk and the dialogue is straightforward – what must have been long debates summarised in a few exchanges, but it works. There’s a wonderful clarity and colour in the writing, and the storytelling is lovely.

The introduction of a schoolgirl, who has run away from boarding school to become an artist, who Alice takes in, gives structure and direction to the latter part of the story, illuminating characters and relationships, and eventually bringing the story full circle.

That’s more clever writing, and it’s so very engaging.

I believed in all of the people; I believed in everything that happened.

The theme, that years many pass, that the world many change, but that people will always be the product of their past and their upbringing was woven in very well.

Frances Vernon would have sat very well in the Virago Modern Classics list, and I suspect that she might have read a few of those green books when she was very young and they were very new. She was born just three months before me, we would have been in the same school year, and I am quite sure that we would have read and many of the same books.

I was sorry when this book was over; but now I have five more novels by Frances Vernon to find.

The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope

Oh, what a maddening book!

As I read there were moments when I thought this might be my favourite Trollope (to date) and there were moments when I thought it would be at the bottom of the list.

In the end I did like it. But ….

The story spins around Lizzie Greystock, who will quickly rise to become Lady Eustace.

Lizzie was the only child of the disreputable Admiral Greystock,  who died leaving her nothing but debts. Fortunately his daughter had learned to live by her wits, and she realised that to marry money to make her way in the world. And so she chose to live with a rather difficult elderly relation, because that put her in the right location and the right strata of society to catch a wealthy husband.

She caught Sir Florian Eustace. He was exceedingly rich, but he was in poor health, and Lizzie was a widow before her first wedding anniversary. She was wealthy, she would soon be the other of the Eustace heir, and she was in possession of the Eustace Diamonds; a fabulous diamond necklace, valued at ten thousand pounds then, which equates to around half a million now

73954 Lizzie said that they were hers; the Eustace family insisted that they were part of the estate and must be returned to the trustees. Though Lizzie knew her claim was shaky she held her ground, she spun a very good story, and she began to look for a husband who she hoped would protect her and look after her interests.

Lord Fawn proposed, but he tried to back out when he realised that dispute over the diamonds might have consequences for his own reputation for her. Lizzie didn’t want to marry a an like that, but she wasn’t going to let herself be jilted. She had to be the victor, she had to have the final word. Always.

She was fond of her cousin Frank, the only one of her relations who had stood by her, and Lizzie knew that, as a barrister and a member of parliament with very limited resources, he needed a wealthy bride. She didn’t understand why he didn’t propose. She didn’t know – he didn’t tell her – that he was engaged already.

Lucy Morris had been left alone in the world, just like Lizzie, but she had dealt with the situation rather differently. She accepted that she had to earn her own living, she became a governess, and she had the qualities she needed to make her a very good governess. She loved Frank, she knew that he loved her, but because she worked for the Fawn family she found herself in a rather awkward position.

One night, when she was travelling between her Scottish home and her London home Lizzie’s room was broken into, and the metal chest that kept her diamonds secure was stolen.

Who was responsible? Who had the diamonds?

The answer was surprising, and it seemed inevitable that Lizzie’s lies would be revealed and that she, and anyone close to her, would be ruined.</.

How ever could Lizzie rise above that.

The way the story played out was wonderful.

But I couldn’t help thinking that it didn’t suit its author, that there were other authors who might have handled this particular story rather better.

most of all, I was disappointed that Trollope, who usually had understanding for all of his characters, had none for Lizzie. He said at the start that he didn’t like her and he took every chance he could to point out that she was manipulative, dishonest, a compulsive liar, a thief …..

Yes, she was all of those things, but I understood why. I couldn’t warm to her, but I appreciated that she was taking charge of her own life, that she strove to be successful and to find her ‘corsair’ – the dashing romantic hero who would sweep her off her feet.

She was all those things, but she was so much more than that.

Others are judged less harshly.

Consider Frank, who proposes when he knows his financial situation makes marriage impossible, and who neglects his fiancée because he must look after his cousin’s interests.

Consider Lizzie’s friend Mrs Carbuncle who is determined that her niece Lucy must marry, who pushed her towards an engagement with a horrible man, and who fails to understand that her niece feels only revulsion, so that in the end her mind snaps.

Both of those stories were neglected; they felt secondary, and they are fatally compromised; Lucy would have been much more at home in a Dickens novel; I’d love to see what Wilkie Collins could do with Lucinda’s story.

A lot of this book just didn’t feel like Trollope; it feels like an attempt to do something a little different. There’s an early reference to ‘Vanity Fair’ and though this is a very different story I think that’s telling.

I still have to say that there was much that I loved.

I loved Lady Fawn, who was both warm and gracious, and who did her very best for Lucy.

I loved watching first Lizzie and then Lucy deal with the rather difficult Lady Linlithgow, in very different ways and with very different consequences.

I loved the sojourns – and the incidents – in the Scottish countryside.

I loved watching Lizzie outmanoeuvre Lord Fawn, who was ever bit as wishy-washy and self-serving as I remembered from ‘Phinneas Finn’

Most of all I loved watching Lizzie and following her progress.

Yes, I found much to enjoy, but I’m afraid that the book as a whole didn’t quite work.

There has been Writing – There has been Shopping – There has been Reading

Time to catch up!

The Writing:

I’m quite sure that you’ll have heard about it already, but I must mention the fabulous new autumn edition of Shiny New Books.

There are far too many wonderful things to mention, but I pick out just a few:

  • Simon has written about one of my favourite books, that has just been reissued, and about one of my favourite authors.
  • You will find me revisiting two of my favourite books, both now available in paperback, in Annabel’s Fiction pages.
  • You’ll also find me writing about The Good Companion by Una L Silberrad. It’s a wonderful book, I’ll be looking out for more of the author’s work, and I found a heroine – from an earlier era – who I’d love to introduce to Lucy Carmichael. Yes – that good!
The Shopping

Our annual day trip to Truro resulted in a very fine haul of books from its two used bookshops and its charity shops.

20141018_182354

I loved ‘The Lonely’ when I read a library copy, so I was very pleased to find a copy to keep. I’m not too sure about ‘Ludmilla’ – described as ‘a charming pastoral legend set in old Lichtenstein’ but as it’s by Paul Gallico I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.

‘The Use of Riches’ by J I M Stewart (who also wrote under the name Michael Innes) is a story of art and intrigue, and so I had to pick it up.

I read ‘Bright Day’ by J B Priestley years ago, I loved it, and it has a Cornish setting, so that one had to come home to be re-read.

I saw a pile of books by Mazo de la Roche, and her name rang a bell but no more than that. I brought home ‘The Building of Jalna’, which on the first book (chronologically) in a long series. I liked the look of them all, but I thought it would be tempting fate to bring home more.

‘The End of Childhood’ by Henry Handel Richardson is the sequel to ‘The Fortunes of Richard Mahoney’, which Cat loved and I know my library has.

‘The Old Ladies’ by Hugh Walpole was a book I had to rescue from a 50p table.

I know that the library has ‘Sissinghurst’ by Adam Nicholson and ‘Millions Like Us’ by Virginia Nicholson, but I also knew that I wanted copies of my own to keep and read at leisure, at the right time.

I know nothing about Mrs Henry de La Pasture, except that she was E M Delafield’s mother and that the Folio Society saw fit to reissue ‘The Unhappy Family’, and that was enough reason to bring the book home.

The Reading

This hasn’t been a great week for finding the time and the clarity of thought that I need to write, but I have been reading:

  • ‘The Provincial Lady Goes Further’ by E M Delafield – the perfect way to change gear Margaret Kennedy Week.
  • ‘The Adventurous Lady ‘ by J C Snaith  – the report will be mixed.
  • ‘Privileged Children’ by Frances Vernon – I was very impressed by I have to track down her other books now.
  • ‘The Eustace Diamonds’ by Anthony Trollope – I liked it, but not as much as my first two Trollopes

I’ll elaborate, I’ll get back to writing, very soon ….

Margaret Kennedy Reading Week: A Look Back – and a Winner

kennedy Badge

The first thing I must say thank you, to so many of you who banged the drum for Margaret Kennedy Reading Week, who were ready to take a chance on a new author, and who took the time and trouble to write about the books that they read.

It really has been lovely to watch.

All that remains is to look back at what we’ve read.

And to give away a prize ….

The Ladies of Lyndon (1923)

Kirsty said: “Whilst ‘The Ladies of Lyndon’ is nicely written on the whole, it does feel rather dated ….”

Jo said: “The book captures I think a snapshot of a period in history and if you were researching this era, then this would be a book which would give you quite an insight.”

Audrey said: “When I read the wonderful opening sentence, I knew I was going to love this book. My second thought was that this could be Jane Austen, writing 100 years later.  But looking back, while there are some Jane-ish echoes here, there’s much more snark and bite.”

Cat said:  “I would call The Ladies of Lyndon a domestic and social comedy. The plot is minimal and it’s the interrelationships, the actions and dialogue between the characters that brings the pre and post-war eras to life. “

 The Constant Nymph (1924)

Ali said: “I absolutely loved it, at once fully involving myself with the characters, as I became immersed in the world of ‘Sanger’s Circus’. I think Margaret Kennedy might be an author whose work I will have to read much more of.”

Helen said:  “I loved the setting, the characterisation and the elegant, engaging writing style and am looking forward to reading more of Margaret Kennedy’s books. “

 The Fool of the Family (1930)

GenusRosa said: “The intense bursts of lucid, fresh prose often kept me thinking about what I had just read. As a musician, there were many elements of the novel that resonated with my own perspective.”

Together and Apart (1936)

Kirsty said: “Kennedy discusses familial relationships and their breakdown throughout the novel ….. Together and Apart, even all these years later, is still an important novel, just as relevant to our society today as it was upon its publication.”

The Feast (1950)

Kaggsy said: “Reading “The Feast” was a hugely enjoyable and rewarding experience and I’m so glad I chose it. In fact, I think it will benefit from a re-read as I was so anxious to reach the conclusion that I’m sure there are many profound little bits I’ve missed.”

Cirtnecce said: “More than anything else, Ms. Kennedy understood both the most noble and the very base instinct of the human heart and her characters brought them forth with force and unerring honesty!”

Troy Chimneys (1953)

Elaine said: “Troy Chimneys is an odd and appealing Regency historical novel with a quiet, studious hero who creates a dashing alter-ego as his public persona ….. I really enjoyed this short novel. I have not read anything quite like it.”

 The Wild Swan  (or The Heroes of Clone) (1957)

I said: “Margaret Kennedy is wonderfully clear-sighted and unsentimental, and not at all judgemental. She just presents that characters and tells the story, and yet I knew that she knew. And I agreed.”

Lisa said: “I chose this one because I remembered it had something to do with a film production in a small town. As I discovered, that’s true, but it’s rather like saying ‘War and Peace’ has something to do with a battle “

Cirtnecce said: “The plot is wonderful, you are plunged write into the truth of Dorothea Harding’s life right at the start, but in a distinctive narrative style, it takes a while for the readers to actually put the whole jigsaw puzzle together.”

 A Night in Cold Harbour (1960)

I said: “There were moments when I saw the influence of Thomas Hardy, there was prose that might have been Jane Austen telling a story unlike any of her own; but what makes the story sing is a depth of feeling that belongs entirely to Margaret Kennedy.”

The Forgotten Smile (1961)

Simon, in Shiny New Books, says: “ Kennedy has created an evocative, moving, and – somehow – transfixing location, and peopled it with fascinating characters.”

I think that’s everyone, but if it isn’t let me know and I’ll put things right.

And so to the winner. The random number generator tells me that:

AUDREY has won a copy of – well, I’m not going to say, because she asked to be surprised, if she should win.

I’ll just say, Audrey, please send me a mailing address via the email in the side bar so that I can send you a lovely Margaret Kennedy novel.

I’ve loved Margaret Kennedy Reading Week, and so  I just have to say thank you again, so much.

A Night in Cold Harbour by Margaret Kennedy

‘A Night in Cold Harbour’ is set in the 19th century, it was published in 1960, but it explores a problem that is still very real, with compassion and concern.

How very easy it is for a man to lose everything ….

The story opens in a cold harbour:  a refuge for travellers and for the homeless. Margaret Kennedy paints a wonderful picture of the people who pass through, people who have built a community and who support one another. And then she introduces an old man who has been brought to the cold harbour by a much younger man. He was an educated man, a parson, and yet he was dying there, alone.

The story that follow explains how that came to be.

7000133-L
It is the story of a young man who was the heir to a fine estate, who was loved by his family, and who was terribly, terribly spoiled. He could not appreciate what he had and what others gave to him; he could only see what he did not have and he would not accept that his position carried any responsibilities.

He broke with his childhood sweetheart, because she wanted to stay close to her widowed father.

He abandoned another woman after a brief dalliance, leaving her to give birth to his child alone.

And then he left his father, his mother and his sisters, to travel and to love that life of a gentleman. That forced his father to sell part of his estate, to a pottery owner who wanted to build a factory.

His abandoned love was a lovely young woman; she refused to become bitter, and she continued to love and to want the best for him. She stayed home with her father, and she picked up the threads of the work that her mother had done in the community.

She even helped his illegitimate child to find a place in the world. A better place than the factory, when she knew the child workers were treated cruelly.

Her father, the parson, saw what was going on and he spoke out, but he found that nobody was willing to listen. When his daughter died he was heart-broken; his sons thought that he was mad – it suited then to think he was mad – and he lost his living and his home.

He faced a stark choice: he could flee or he could be sent to an asylum.

The spoiled young man learned lessons, and in time he would gain maturity and he would see the error of his ways. He would try to put things right but he would fail; it was too late.

Margaret Kennedy’s clear-sightedness suited this story wonderfully well. There’s a clarity of purpose too; she knew the period, she knew the history, but that was the setting for the story and the chain of consequence that is threaded through it.

It’s a story driven more by plot and less by characters than her other novels that I have read.

There are sub-plots, and there are lovely details along the way; they echo the themes, helping to make the point that virtue in not always rewarded, that sins are not always punished, that humans are horribly fallible, and that mistakes cannot always be put right; everything comes together in one elegantly constructed plot.

The central storyline holds the attention. The structure is a little like ‘The Feast’ in that you know what happens at the beginning and you read on to find how and why and to understand the real significance of that thing that happened.

There were moments when I saw the influence of Thomas Hardy, there was prose that might have been Jane Austen telling a story unlike any of her own; but what makes the story sing is a depth of feeling that belongs entirely to Margaret Kennedy.

I just wished that there had been a little more space; there was almost too much story for one short book; but the impression that story leaves is exactly what it should be.

A dramatization of ‘A Night in Cold Harbour’ could be amazing; but, for now, I am happy to have read a story that will stay with me.

Margaret Kennedy Reading Week: Updates and a Book to be Won

kennedy Badge
So, what are we reading?

I’m going to work through the novels chronologically, but I may be distracted along the way ….

Cat and Audrey are both reading ‘The Ladies of Lyndon’ and they both – quite independently – highlighted a wonderful opening paragraph.

I believe that My Book Strings is reading this one. And that Jo has read it too.

Kirsty has finished reading and she had mixed feelings, saying:

“Whilst ‘The Ladies of Lyndon’ is nicely written on the whole, it does feel rather dated ….”

Ali was very taken with ‘The Constant Nymph, saying:

“I absolutely loved it, at once fully involving myself with the characters, as I became immersed in the world of ‘Sanger’s Circus’. I think Margaret Kennedy might be an author whose work I will have to read much more of.”

Helen is reading this one too.

GenusRosa has written a lovely piece about ‘The Fool of the Family.’

She says:

“The intense bursts of lucid, fresh prose often kept me thinking about what I had just read. As a musician, there were many elements of the novel that resonated with my own perspective.”

I know that Darlene is reading ‘Together and Apart’, because it says so in her sidebar, and I am very curious to know what she thinks of it.

Kirsty had words of praise for this book:

“Kennedy discusses familial relationships and their breakdown throughout the novel, and everything which she touches upon is shown in mind of the impending divorce.  Together and Apart, even all these years later, is still an important novel, just as relevant to our society today as it was upon its publication.”

Tina was planning to read this too.

Kaggsy was very impressed by ‘The Feast’ and she said:

“Reading “The Feast” was a hugely enjoyable and rewarding experience and I’m so glad I chose it. In fact, I think it will benefit from a re-read as I was so anxious to reach the conclusion that I’m sure there are many profound little bits I’ve missed.”

Cirtnecce has also read ‘The Feast’, and she told me that she loved it.

Cynthia is reading ‘Lucy Carmichael’ and I’m sure she is going to be one of the many who have fallen in love with that particular book. I think its still my favourite Margaret Kennedy novel.

I was very taken with The Wild Swan, I know that Lisa is reading the same book, and I’m looking forward to comparing notes.

I’ve read ‘Night at Cold Harbour’ too, and I’ll tell you more about that tomorrow.

You’ll find Simon‘s review of ‘The Forgotten Smile’ in  very fine new edition of Shiny New Books.

He says:

“One of the unexpectedly appealing things about The Forgotten Smile is the way that Kennedy plays with structure. It feels a bit as though the novel were a jigsaw puzzle that had fallen apart and been haphazardly reassembled, as the sections of the story are not given in either a linear order or any particularly logical one. It shouldn’t work, but it does.”

Eliza is reading ‘Outlaws on Parnassus’, Margaret’s Kennedy’s non-fiction work about the art of the novelist, and she described it thus:

 “Dated but full of excellent points. Also dry wit.”

And that reminds me that Claire has three of Margaret Kennedy’s works in her library pile: ‘The Feast’, ‘Lucy Carmichael’, and ‘Where Stands a Winged Sentry’.

I think that’s all I have. I hope I haven’t missed anyone, but if I have just let me know and I’ll add you to the list.

* * * * *

And so to the giveaway.

It’s very simple. You could win any in-print Margaret Kennedy novel in print. Just tell me which one you’d like to have if you win, and at least one very good reason why.

Some books are available already, and some of the reissues have been delayed and are now expected on 16th October. So the choices are:

Available now:

The Ladies of Lyndon
The Constant Nymph
The Fool of the Family
The Midas Touch
The Feast
Lucy Carmichael
The Oracles
The Forgotten Smile

Coming soon:

Return I Dare Not
A Long Time Ago
Together and Apart
Troy Chimneys
A Night in Cold Harbour

Now tell me, which book would you like to win?

A Dog Blog: A Special Edition of my Game for Margaret Kennedy Week

Hello bookish friends! It’s me – Briar!

Are you enjoying Margaret Kennedy Reading Week?

I am! Because Jane had some annual leave to use up before the end of the year and she took it this week. So I have had extra company and we have had some trips out into the country for special walks. I am a happy dog!

20141005_095242_005

(Jane said I should show you this picture even though I’m not very big in it, because in the background is a literary landmark to do with one of the books you will see a little further down.)

I wanted to do something for the week, and so I should do a special round of my game. Do you remember how it works? We pick a person and we take a photograph of five books to represent them. Then you have to guess who they are.

Here’s a link to an previous game, if you want to see how it’s done.

This time we have picked people who are joining in Margaret Kennedy Reading Week, and each of them has a Margaret Kennedy book that they have read or are reading now in their pile of books.

Some of them have played the game, some of them have been answers in the game before, and you should be able to find links to all of them around the blog.

So let’s play!

Here’s the first:

Ladies

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
The Ladies of Lyndon by Mararet Kennedy
Miss Buncle’s Book by D E Stevenson
Consider the Fork by Bee Wilson

* * * * *

Next comes number two:

Feast

Merry Hall by Beverley Nichols
The Feast by Margaret Kennedy
This is the End by Stella Benson
Mapp and Lucia by E F Benson
Sunlight on a Broken Column by Atia Hossain

* * * * *

Number three is in the middle:

Lucy

Can You Forgive Her? by Anthony Trollope
Lucy Carmichael by Margaret Kennedy
Love in the Sun by Leo Walmsley
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
Sugar Hall by Tiffany Murray

* * * * *

Next in line is number four:

Nymph

The Constant Nymph by Margaret Kennedy
The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett
Family Roundabout by Richmal Compton
The Devil in the Marshalsea by Antonia Hodgson
The True and Splendid Adventures of the Harristown Sisters by Michelle Lovric

* * * * *

And last but not least is number five:

Together
An Episode of Sparrows by Rumer Godden
Together and Apart by Margaret Kennedy
London Belongs to Me by Norman Collins
A Game of Hide and Seek by Elizabeth Taylor
The Love-Charm of Bombs by Lara Fiegel

* * * * *

You can tell me your answers in the comments and I’ll be along later to tell you if you’re right and to chat a bit.

If you’re the first person to get one of answers you will get a bonus entry in our prize draw, which will be coming along later in the week. You can guess yourself if you want.

So let’s go !!!

The Heroes of Clone – or, The Wild Swan – by Margaret Kennedy

Back in the 1920s Margaret Kennedy’s second novel, ‘The Constant Nymph’, was a huge, huge success. It was one of the bestselling novels of the decade, it became a successful stage play and then Margaret Kennedy was called upon to write a screenplay. That led her to more work in Britain’s film industry, and that experience underpins this novel.

The Heroes of CloneRoy Collins had been smitten with photography and cinema since boyhood, and when he grew up he set about working his way up in the cinema business. He had secured a job working on scripts for BBB – Blech Bernstein British!

Dorothy Harding had been a Victorian novelist. She had never married but she had supported her family, writing moral tales that were popular in their day but would quickly be forgotten. Dorothy would have been forgotten, had her diary and her poems not come to light after her death. They revealed a very different side of the author, and literary critic Alec Mundy published a book suggesting that the ‘G’ Dorothy wrote of with such passion was the man that she had loved and her sister had married. Playwright Adelaide Lassiter had taken that theory and turned it into a grandly romantic film that had become a huge hit and was going to be turned into a film.

And that was where Roy came in!

He had an uneasy feeling about the job. He was disappointed that the Harding family were only interested in the income that that film would bring them, he was interested that the there was such love for the author in the countryside around her home, and he began to wonder if the critic and the playwright had got things wrong.

Roy was right. The story stepped back into the past to tell Dorothy’s story.

The earlier chapters had been wonderful. A lovely introduction, as Roy visited the schoolteacher aunt who had understood him better than his parents ever had and spoken with her about what he was doing, set the story up beautifully. The gentle but knowing satire of the film business was so very well down. And Harding family, living in genteel poverty in a run-down country house, quite oblivious to the fact that the world had changed, were captured beautifully.

16031525The interlude in the past was even finer; I thought that I might have met the loveliest Victorian novelist I had encountered before; I realised that Margaret Kennedy had planned her story so very, very cleverly.

Dorothy’s real story was much deeper, much more moving than the story that the critic and the playwright had spun; and yet it was understandable that they had drawn the conclusions that they did. Dorothy had grown from an imaginative child into an intelligent woman, but her life had been sheltered, she was naïve about so any things, and her family and others had exploited that, and her good nature.

Margaret Kennedy’s work is informed by her love of Jane Austen, but Dorothy’s story suggests that she knew and loved the Brontes too ….

Roy loved his job, but he knew that he had to do the right thing;  he had to clear Dorothy’s reputation of the romantic fantasy the poet and playwright had concocted, even if it did cost him his  job.

I loved that way that the story played out. The playwright was disappointed that the truth failed to live up to her romantic fantasy, but she decided that she had to represent her heroine honestly. That was lovely. The film company and the leading lady pulled back from the project. That was understandable. And the critic – who surely should have done a little more research and a little less speculating – was determined to suppress the truth and preserve his reputation. That was worrying.

Margaret Kennedy is wonderfully clear-sighted and unsentimental, and not at all judgemental. She just presents that characters and tells the story, and yet I knew that she knew. And I agreed.

I loved Roy, I loved Dorothy, and I loved the way their stories were woven together.

This proved to be a story for the head and the heart.

There is much to reward careful reading; lovely details, allusions, and themes that echo through Margaret Kennedy’s work.

And the story of an woman whose reputation many are ready to tarnish, who accepts what life offers her and finds peace is both moving and memorable.

Welcome to Margaret Kennedy Reading Week

kennedy Badge

Hello, and welcome to Margaret Kennedy Reading Week.

This week is dedicated to reading the work of Margaret Kennedy, who isn’t quite a forgotten author but who isn’t nearly as widely read as I think she should, or could, be. I started reading her books back in October 2012 and have enjoyed every one of her books that I’ve read. They are wonderfully diverse, and, though some are stronger than others, each one has its own merits.

(I should mention at this point, just in case you haven’t seen it already and you’re wondering who the author is or which of her books you might like, that there is a bibliography, there are links, and there is as much information as I could pull together in one place back here.)

I want to thank everyone who has spread the word about this event and been so supportive about celebrating Margaret Kennedy’s legacy. It’s been lovely to find so any people who know and like her work, and to find others who are ready to be introduced to a new author. I’ve read about plans, I’ve spotted some people reading already, and I am so curious to read reactions to Margaret Kennedy’s work.

I will keep a running list here of all Margaret Kennedy posts written this week so that we can read each other’s thoughts. You can let me know you’ve posted by commenting here, by sending me an email at the address you should see near the top of the sidebar, or by tweeting about your post using the hashtag #mkennedyrw.

(When I say posts I don’t just mean blog posts, I also mean bookish posts on Librarything, on Goodreads, on Booklikes, and on other sites that I might have forgotten And please don’t feel left out if you don’t do any of that; just leave a comment here with your thoughts.)

Thank you to everyone participating – I wish you a wonderful week of reading Margaret Kennedy!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 924 other followers