Tuesday, July 15, 2008

One of Our Conquerors, Pomfrey Towers, and Time after Time

What do you read in the heat? (A) mysteries, (B) classics, (C) non-fiction, (D) Other?

Where do your read it? (A) on a chaise longue wearing earplugs to keep out the lawnmower noises, (B) sprawling in a comfortable chair with a fan overhead, (C) at the office between checking e-mail, (D) ) Other?

As for myself:

1. As promised, I have read a mystery, Time and Time Again, by B. M. Gill. Narrated by an upper-class accountant who has spent 18 months in prison for throwing a rock at a policeman during an anti-nuke demonstration, she cannot fit into conventional society (people keep telling her she had a cushy time in prison) and secretly hangs out with a shoplifter she met in prison.

2. Angela Thirkell’s Pomfret Towers (Thirkell writes humor books, somewhere between A Provincial Lady and P. G. Wodehouse).

3. George Meredith’s One of Our Conquerors, much superior to Beauchamp’s Career. The “revised” edition, published in 1914 by Constable & Company, is, unfortunately, a little crumbly with some uncut pages. (Those rip easily, regrettably). I highly recommend this book, if you can get a copy. It’s rather Edith Whartonish, reminding me very much of The Custom of the Country.

The contingency of the novel lies in the relationship of Victor Radner to Nataly, a woman he has lived with for 20 years. His first wife, a much older woman, introduced him to Nataly when she was her companion. The first Mrs. Radner has never gotten over her grief over the elopement and has maliciously refused a divorce, Victor, a cheerful Babbilt who is satisifed with money l, is relatively unharmed by the gossip, but society is harder on women, as Nataly knows. And so they have moved from place to place, shunned as soon as society finds out their position.

The Radners and their daughter, Nesta, attract friends through their music. There is a huge cast of diverse characters who attend the concerts at the Radners’ house: Meredith wittily contrasts teetotalers with oinophiles, etc. His has suitors: Radner hopes to marry her to a lord or some bigwig because he tells them she will have $10,000 a year settled on her.

Victor builds an enormous house of which his wife and daughter are ashamed, and we learn as much about him through their dialogue and thouhts as we do through Victor's escapades (Meredith also does this in Beauchamp's Career).

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