Saturday, December 01, 2012

Le Fanu's Guy Deverell & Cleaning My Closets

First, let me say that J. Sheridan Le Fanu's Guy Deverell is not a classic.  It is an entertaining Gothic novel.

Do you ever get confused and choose a non-classic when you mean to read a classic? I have a classics "slot" in my reading regimen:  among the five or six books I may be reading at any one time are a "hot" new novel, an out-of-print women's novel or Virago, a genre book, a comedy, sometimes specifically a book by a male, and a classic (but this time Guy Deverell, a Gothic novel, ended up in the wrong slot). 

When you are young you fall into books. In middle age you have less time, so you casually begin to read like a buyer at a bookstore: one-fourth of this bad ARC, one half of this mediocre one, and the whole of a very good book. The unevenness of new books will drive you mad, so you must have older books or classics going on the side.

Guy Deverell is amusing and suspenseful.  The dialogue is sharp and often humorous. We don't know the secret of the mysterious Green Chamber.   Although I'm not a mystery expert, Guy Deverell seems to be a predecessor of a locked-room mystery, though the room is not always locked, and the house party goes on for weeks, not a weekend.

Think if Agatha Christie went on for 400 pages!

The plot is engrossing but predictable; the characterization is Le Fanu's strength.  The charming, bluff-talking Sir Jekyl meets a young man who is a "dead ringer" (no pun intended) for Guy Deverell, whom he killed in a duel many years ago.  He learns that the young man's name is Guy Strangways, not Deverell, and he is accompanied by a Frenchman, M. Varberrierre, his uncle.  Sir Jekyl thinks the two may be distant relatives trying to grab his inheritance, because he knows the name Strangways, and deviously he invites them to a house party (a little bit strange, yes?). 

The Green Chamber at Sir Jekyl's mansion Marlowe becomes the focus. Both Sir Jekyl's wife and father begged on their deathbeds for the Green Chamber be walled up. He hasn't bothered.  Instead, he insists that his friend the General and his beautiful wife Lady Jane must sleep there during their visit.  Sir Jekyl's housekeeper, Donica, who slept in the Green Chamber for three years, quits over this arrangement because she is suspicious of Sir Jekyl.

So what is going on in the Green Chamber? Is there a ghost or a seducer?   Isn't Lady Jane a gold digger?  And why does M. Varberrierre insist on measuring the Green Room?  Why does he warn Guy away from Sir Jekyll's daughter Beatrix?

The most vivid character is Lady Alice, the stepmother-in-law of Sir Jekyll, and the mother of Guy Deverell.  She wants to protect Lady Jane when she hears from the housekeeper she is to stay in the Green Chamber.  She locks Lady Jane in her room at night when the General goes to London,  suspicious that Sir Jekyll may visit her. 
 I've read 300 pages and had fun...but really this is not as good as his best-known book, Uncle Silas, or The Rose and the Key, a Woman in White-ish book about an insane asylum... should I skip to the end?...but, no, I  love Le Fanu, and am anyway compulsive with 100 pages left.

But it's not a classic, and I'll have to read something REALLY LONG AND DIFFICULT NOW.  

CLEANING CLOSETS.  Yes, I am a bad housewife. I sigh over it. 

But I can clean a closet very quickly. 

I have one of those 24-hour things. Oh, I can deal.  I make my own vaporizer out of a bowl of hot water and a towel, drink spicy tea, and watch Downton Abbey.  

Then I start feeling restless.  

This is why.  The bedroom is stuffy when the window is closed, and it occurs to me that all that  stuff in the closet is dusty.

You know what I did?

Five garbage bags.  

I bagged all those adorable clothes I used to wear and no longer fit into: a blue shirt with embroidered butterflies, green jeans from L. L. Bean, tiny gym shorts (how long was I able to wear those, I wonder), old sandals, a sweater from the Gap 1990, the tweed blazer the late R found for me at the Junior League charity store, the faded medium t-shirts (kept the Runcible Spoon one), ink-stained capris, a velvet dress (how cute!), a robe belt (where's the robe?), and two pairs of polar bear pajamas.

I also found a bag of stuff that belongs to a relative, who is doing moderately okay after a year in a nursing home. I hoped that she would gain weight and grow back into her fur-trimmed suede shirt and her too big matching knit pants and tops, but no, she has continued to shrink.  She will never wear these again.  And it makes me very sad.

Off to Good Will.

No comments: