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.


The Rising Tide by Molly Keane

Virago Modern Classic #137

1st VMC Cover

1st VMC Cover

Early in the twentieth century Lady Charlotte French-McGrath was chatelaine of Garonlea, her family’s Irish country home. She ruled as an absolute monarch and cast her husband, her son and her four daughters as courtiers.

You wouldn’t want to meet Lady Charlotte, but you can’t help admiring her.

When Desmond, the son of the house brought home his bride she was unwilling to join Lady Charlotte’s court. No, Cynthia set up her own court at the dower house aross the valley.

Later VMC Cover

Later VMC Cover

Cynthia too is a wonderful creation. She raises children, runs her house impeccably, entertains wonderfully, hunts whenever possible, always looks wonderful, and so draws her own courtiers like moths to a flame.

And so battle commences, between two different styles, two different ways of living and two formidable women who will not give way.

Eventually of course Cynthia does rule Garonlea, but her time will pass too.

Present VMC Cover

Present VMC Cover

This is a wonderful story, brought to life with colourful incidents and a wonderful supporting cast – most notably Lady Charlotte’s four differing daughters and Cynthia’s son and daughter.

And then of course there is Garonlea itself. The Gothic mansion is a constant presence and it is as vital a character as any of the characters who pass through.

“The Rising Tide” is a wonderful portrait of a changing world and ways of life that will soon disappear.

A joy to read!

The Eye of Love, by Margery Sharp

Virago Modern Classic #484


This is a timeless and charming tale.

Mr Gibson and Miss Diver meet at the Chelsea Arts Ball and fall deeply in love. She is his “Spanish rose” and he is her “King Hal”.

But Mr Gibson decides that he must marry the daughter of a wealthy business associate to save his ailing business and moves into a new world.

Miss Diver is left with nothing and so she takes in a lodger.

That lodger, Mr Philips, takes Miss Diver for a wealthier woman than she is and begins to make plans.

Helping all of this along is Martha, the orpaned niece taken in by Miss Driver. And Martha’s artistic talent brings her to the attention of Mr Gibson’s future father-in-law …

The plot moves along nicely and Margery Sharp has the gift of creating characters you immediately feel you know and relationships you can empathize with.

She captures romance wonderfully without ever becoming sentimental.

Martha appears in two sequels, sadly out of print, that I will endeavour to track down.

“The Eye of Love” is a gem!

War Through The Generations Challenge WWII


This is the first challenge of a new blog dedicated to challenges relate to war and its impact.

Their first challenge beginning January 1, 2009 is World War II .

Readers must commit to reading at least five books throughout the year.

The books can be fiction or non-fiction, and they can be about any aspect of WWII. WWII should be the primary or secondary theme, and it doesn’t matter whether the book takes place during the war or after the war.

I am by nature an escapist reader, but I am engaged to a lover of non-fiction and he has inspired me to learn a little more about the real world out there!

The six books I plan to read are less about the war itself than people whose lives were affected by it.

1. A Fine of 200 Francs,  by Elsa Triolet

Elsa Triolet worked with the French Resistance and this is fiction bases on her experiences. This book was first published illegally by Underground presses.

2. Doreen, by Barbara Noble

The story of a child evacuated from London to the country who becomes torn beween her mother and the family that took her in.

3. Few Eggs and No Oranges, by Vere Hodgson

Vere Hodgson worked for a London charity during the Second World War. She began writing a diary at the start of the Blitz.

4. Good Evening, Mrs Craven: the Wartime Stories of Mollie Panter-Downes

These short stories first appeared in The New Yorker between 1939 and 1944. They are snapshots of people at defining points in their lives, viewed against the backdrop of the War.

5. On the Other Side: Letters to my Children from Germany 1940-46, by Mathilde Wolff-Mönckeberg

This is a volume of letters written (but never posted) by a 60 year-old woman, to her children living abroad, about the experience of living in Hamburg during the war. They were discovered in a drawer in the 1970s and published in England and Germany in 1979.

6. The Quest for Christa T. by Christa Wolf

This is the story of a young woman growing up in Nazi Germany.

Life and Death of Harriett Frean by May Sinclair

Virago Modern Classic #26


This is a short book but it spans a whole life, entering the consciousness of Harriett Frean and travelling with her from birth to death.

She is a much loved child but it quickly becomes clear that she will be brought up to “behave beautifully” and to always put that before her own wishes.

After a misunderstanding at a tea party Harriett relinquishes her plate without eating rather than be thought greedy.

When she learns what has happened, Harriett’s mother tells her:

“Well, I’m glad my little girl didn’t snatch and push. It’s better to go without that to take other from people’s share. That’s ugly.”

Harriett accepts her parents values without question and continues to live by them.

The course of her life is set when having fallen in love with the fiance of her closest friend, she finds happiness in the belief that she was right to give him up.

And nothing changes, even when Harriett’s parents are proved to be fallible, her friend’s marriage is shown to be troubled and the world changes.

Even at the age of 39 she proudly introduces herself as “Hilton Frean’s Daughter”.

Will Harriett’s high morals ever bring her reward or will she realise that there are other ways of living and maybe even change?

This is a short wonderfully constructed, intense study of one woman’s life and indeed a whole way of life in the nineteenth century. The prose is clear and not a word is wasted.

I thought it was hyperbole when I read the back cover desciption of this book as standing comparison with “the work of Dorothy Richardson and Virginia Woolf as one of the great innovatory novels of this century.”

When I read the book I realised it wasn’t, it was a clear truth.