The Love-Child by Edith Olivier

Virago Modern Classic #46


Agatha has lead a sheltered life and, following he mother’s death, she finds herself quite alone at thirty-two.

She summons back to life Clarissa, the dream companion of her childhood and her only real friend.

At first Clarissa’s appearances are intermitent and only Agatha can see her.

They play games together and it seems that Clarissa is the child Agatha could have become with a different upbringing. Agatha has been brought up to dress like her mother, eschew reading and sweets and is painfully shy of others, but Clarissa is drawn to bright things, books, sweets, other children and she embraces life.

In time Clarissa becomes a continual presence, and it seems that others can see her too. She begins to explore life. She wants to learn to drive, to go dancing, to play tennis, but Agatha wants to prevent and protect her, to keep her close.

The bond between the two is unbroken, but it becomes more and more strained and the differences between them grow more and more exaggerated.

Clarissa becomes more daring and unconventional.

Agatha becomes controlling and neurotic. Her attempts to contain Clarissa – expressing fear of motor cars, citing sick headaches to try to stop jaunts – are both sad and absurd.

And then Clarissa falls in love with a man. Surely something must break?

This is a wonderful book and nothing that I can write will do it justice.

It sounds like an impossible story to pull off, but Edith Olivier does!

“The Love-Child” is beautifully constructed and written and it contains both surreal touches and emotional truths.


One response

  1. One of my favourite books! You mentioned you loved it on a blog post of mine the other day, so I thought I’d hunt out your review of it… I’ve read it three or four times, and I’ll read it many more. The other two books I’ve read by Olivier (The Seraphim Room and Dwarf’s Blood) haven’t been anywhere near as good, so she is something of a one-off with The Love-Child, I think.

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