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I wanted a quiet sort of book in which nothing much happens, with, hopefully, a soothingness of tone and a sense of time and history. This is pretty much exactly what I got, except that the last few pages were so critically marred by unthinking acceptance of contemporary-to-the-time-of-writing sexism that I now retroactively hate the romance part of the plot desperately and am left really very annoyed. Seriously it was like the last three pages. Grrrr.

Anyway. This is about an English country house and five generations of the family who have lived in it, in all their happinesses, unhappinesses, marryings and adulteries and births and business deals and ordinary life. It is, as it ought to be, house porn, and walks reasonably the line between sentimentality and nostalgia. The various generations aren't retold chronologically but interwoven on a sentence and paragraph level, thematically organized by the canon hours as they appear in a book belonging to one of the family. The structure of this book, the way it is unstuck in time, is the thing I like the most about it-- it gives it something of a jigsaw nature, putting together things you've seen out of context.

It's something of a didactic book in some ways, in that you can tell exactly what the author does and does not approve of about modernity, but mostly this is not terribly obtrusive, and the pacing is good, and the prose well-wrought.

However, I am never going to be able to forgive those last three pages. It had been being a completely reasonable romance, and then it wasn't, and just, I cannot possibly recommend this to anyone, and shall certainly never reread it. I can't remember the last time I saw a book shoot itself in the foot quite that suddenly.

I'm prepared to try some other Godden, as people keep recommending me In This House of Brede, but she is now on my mental list of authors I refuse to trust; I will probably read other work by her with a great deal more skepticism and expectation of annoyance than the way I approached this, which is saying something, as I was already very carefully avoiding her work set in India.


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March 2017

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