The Chalk Pit – Elly Griffiths

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Forensic archaeologist Dr Ruth Galloway is called in when bones are discovered during building works under the Guildhall in Norfolk. The bones are very white & smooth. Are they medieval, as Ruth expects, or more recent? Architect Quentin Swan just wants to get on with his project but forensic tests reveal that the bones could be less than 10 years old & they may have been boiled in a pot. Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson & his team – DS Judy Johnson, Dave Clough & Tanya Fuller – are investigating the bones but current cases take priority.

Barbara Murray, a homeless woman, has disappeared & her friend, Eddie (known unkindly as Aftershave Eddie), asks Nelson to find her. When Eddie & another homeless man, Bilbo, are murdered, stabbed while they slept, the search for Barbara takes on more urgency. Then, a young mother, Sam Foster-Jones, disappears from her home in the early evening, leaving her four children behind. When Dave Clough’s partner, Cassandra Blackstock, also disappears after a rehearsal of a play, an experimental version of Alice in Wonderland, the team begin to look for connections between the three missing women. A drop-in centre for the homeless, run by a born-again Christian & his wife, which also runs a mother’s group seems to connect all the victims & then there are rumours of an underground community, living in the tunnels under the city. Could the bones under the Guildhall, the murdered men & missing women be connected?

I love this series. Even more than the mystery plot, I love the characters. Ruth is a single mother in her 40s. Her daughter, Kate, the result of a brief affair with Nelson, is now six years old. I enjoy the detail of Ruth’s work at the University, the office politics of her slimy boss, Phil, & the wonder she feels at Kate, so confident, so different in personality from herself, as she grows up in their remote house on the Saltmarsh. Ruth still feels uncertain about her abilities as a mother, whether it’s at the school gate with the other parents or when Kate is offered a part in Cassandra’s play. There’s also a significant strand of the plot that takes Ruth back to her parents. Their evangelical beliefs alienated Ruth for years but the birth of Kate brought them closer. Ruth & Nelson’s relationship is still very tentative. His marriage survived their brief affair but his wife, Michelle, almost had an affair with one of his colleagues & their relationship has become distant & very careful. Nelson sees Kate regularly but he & Ruth try to keep a certain distance because of his marriage. Michelle knows about Kate but their daughters don’t & this is becoming difficult.

Judy Johnson’s relationship with Cathbad, lab assistant & Druid, has settled down & Cathbad is the main carer for their two children. Judy is a compassionate, strong woman & I loved her investigations into Barbara’s disappearance. Clough is as insensitive & judgmental as ever but his edges have been softened by his relationship with Cassandra & the birth of their son. Tanya is an ambitious young woman, eager to make her mark & the new boss, Superintendent Jo Archer, is the kind of career police officer that infuriates Nelson. He feels threatened by her emphasis on reports & efficiency & is offended to be sent on a speed awareness course, suspecting that Archer is looking for an excuse to push him into retirement or at least keep him chained to a desk & away from active investigating. The solution to the mystery is based on solid police work & a flash of inspiration from Ruth. The investigations into the homeless community, the stories of Barbara, Eddie & Bilbo, as well as the people who try to care for them, was fascinating. The book ends with a significant moment that hints at personal turmoil to come for Ruth & Nelson in the next book & I can hardly bear to wait another year to discover what happens!

I read The Chalk Pit thanks to a review copy from NetGalley.

Sunday Poetry – John Clare

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More John Clare this week. He writes so well about weather & the seasons that I wanted to explore his poetry a little more. We’re still experiencing unseasonably mild summer weather in Melbourne. It rained for a few hours this morning & the sun is just coming out now although there are more showers to come (according to the Bureau’s radar). I spent an hour or so weeding & tidying up in the garden this morning & think I’ll get out for a walk before it rains again. I’ll feel entitled to settle down with a cup of tea & an archaeology magazine after a brisk walk.

This poem is just called Summer. It’s a lovely vision of a perfect summer’s day.

Come we to the summer, to the summer we will come,
For the woods are full of bluebells and the hedges full of bloom,
And the crow is on the oak a-building of her nest,
And love is burning diamonds in my true lover’s breast;
She sits beneath the whitethorn a-plaiting of her hair,
And I will to my true lover with a fond request repair;
I will look upon her face, I will in her beauty rest,
And lay my aching weariness upon her lovely breast.

The clock-a-clay is creeping on the open bloom of May,
The merry bee is trampling the pinky threads all day,
And the chaffinch it is brooding on its grey mossy nest
In the whitethorn bush where I will lean upon my lover’s breast;
I’ll lean upon her breast and I’ll whisper in her ear
That I cannot get a wink o’sleep for thinking of my dear;
I hunger at my meat and I daily fade away
Like the hedge rose that is broken in the heat of the day.

Mini reviews, bits & pieces

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I’m doing lots of reading at the moment but not finding the time to write reviews so I thought I would just post quick reviews of a couple of books & mention a few other bits & pieces.

Terms and Conditions by Ysenda Maxtone Graham is the latest publication from Slightly Foxed. It’s a history of girls boarding schools in England from the 1930s to the 1970s. The reviews for this book have been glowing, emphasizing the humour & laughter but I found it quite a melancholy read. So many of the women interviewed had been profoundly affected by their experiences at boarding school. Many of them had been avid readers of boarding school fiction by Angela Brazil or Enid Blyton & their actual experiences of loneliness, physical privations (cold dormitories, terrible food) & emotional deprivation were distressing to read about. Maybe I’m not as stoic as many of the interviewees, many of whom were nonetheless still affected by their experiences decades later. The story of girls education in the 20th century is so bound up with the class system & the different expectations of girls & boys & what their futures would be. Maxtone Graham is horrified by this,

The keeping of the lid on their ambitions was, though, shameful: an unimaginative and backward-looking way of keeping women ‘in their place’ by ensuring that they arrived in adulthood safely under-qualified for anything except a brief secretarial job followed by marriage and keeping house. There was appalling frustration for women in those bad old days.

but, as a boarding school girl herself in the 70s, she’s more accepting of the limitations of the system than I can be. There are some very funny stories & the advantages of life-long friendships & an ability to cope with any setback that life can throw at you are emphasized by many of the interviewees. I just found myself pondering the sadness rather than the jolly hockey sticks aspects. There were too many unsympathetic, unqualified teachers & uninterested parents & I felt desperately sorry for the students & frustrated that their talents & strengths were so often ignored.

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Weatherland by Alexandra Harris is a survey of the way English artists & writers have described weather. Harris begins in Anglo-Saxon England with Beowulf & ends in the late 20th century. It’s a fascinating journey. Some of the highlights for me were the descriptions of medieval manuscripts where it always seems to be winter. Spring & summer are never described but there are lots of illustrations of people pulling off wet shoes & stockings in front of roaring fires. The frost fairs of the 17th century, the amount of mud that was just a part of everyday life before modern roads. The influence of Italian architecture that led to 18th century country houses modeled on Italian villas but without the balmy weather that made living in marble halls comfortable. The tinted glasses that 18th century tourists used to enhance the view (blue for a moonlight effect or yellow for autumnal views). The cult of sublimity that meant the “fine” weather wasn’t sunny & bright but gloomy & atmospheric. The symbolic importance of those hot, summers before the Great War as described in novels like L P Hartley’s The Go-Between.

Harris has written a biography of Virginia Woolf (& cites Woolf as her inspiration for Weatherland) & Woolf is quoted several times, especially Orlando, her novel of a very long-lived protagonist who begins as a 16th century man, changes sex in the 18th century & ends the book in the 1920s. Many of my favourite authors are discussed from Shakespeare & Surrey in the 16th century to Gilbert White, the Romantic poets, Thomas Hardy’s heaths, Dickens’s London fog, T S Eliot & Stevie Smith. This is  a fascinating exploration of the way that weather has influenced English thought over centuries, a thought-provoking read. I know I’ll be noticing the weather in my reading from now on.

In last week’s Persephone Post, Nicola Beauman featured Dorothy Canfield Fisher, author of The Homemaker, one of Persephone’s first titles. Persephone has always championed Canfield Fisher & they’re considering reprinting another of her books. They’re asking for recommendations & I’ve emailed to suggest The Deepening Stream, which I absolutely loved.

In the latest Persephone Letter is a link to a terrific article about Susan Glaspell, one of my favourite Persephone authors. I reread Brook Evans a couple of years ago but Fidelity is a remarkable novel, one of the first Persephones I bought & should be better known. I bought Canfield Fisher’s Letters last year but haven’t read them yet. They’re definitely coming off the tbr shelves soon.

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Finally, I don’t write about politics on the blog but this is so clever & so funny that I just can’t resist. If you’re on Twitter, have a look at Donaeld the Unready @donaeldunready. You may know that Ethelred the Unready’s sobriquet didn’t mean that he was always late, it meant Ill-advised. I leave you to make the connection.

Sunday Poetry – John Clare

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Much of Australia is experiencing extreme heat this weekend but in Melbourne, it’s cool & grey. John Clare’s poem, Autumn, conjures up images of the season that, hopefully, isn’t too far away.

I was also reminded of John Clare by the latest episode of In Our Time on BBC radio. You can listen to it here or download the podcast from wherever you get your podcasts.

The thistledown’s flying, though the winds are all still,
On the green grass now lying, now mounting the hill,
The spring from the fountain now boils like a pot;
Through stones past the counting it bubbles red-hot.

The ground parched and cracked is like overbaked bread,
The greensward all wracked is, bents dried up and dead.
The fallow fields glitter like water indeed,
And gossamers twitter, flung from weed unto weed.

Hill-tops like hot iron glitter bright in the sun,
And the rivers we’re eying burn to gold as they run;
Burning hot is the ground, liquid gold is the air;
Whoever looks round sees Eternity there.

The Communion of Saints – John Barlow

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John Ray’s thick dark hair was just the same, a little too long and wilfully unkempt. He was dressed just as she remembered: loose black suit with a white shirt open at the neck. Yet as they emerged into the chill of the late afternoon, she detected a difference in him, something subtle but undeniable. He still looked as if he’d just walked out of a casino at six in the morning. But the easy swagger was gone; it was as if he’d walked out of the casino because he’s lost everything.

Whenever John Ray’s name is mentioned, he’s described as “son of Tony Ray, the well-known local crime boss”. A year after witnessing his father’s murder, John is still coming to terms with the grief & the guilt. He’s working as a teaching assistant in Accountancy at Leeds City University, living in an apartment that’s fast becoming a rubbish dump, drinking & gambling too much, a functional alcoholic living alone. When Detective Chief Superintendent Shirley Kirk of the West Yorkshire police asks John to informally investigate historic abuse allegations being made about St Olaf’s boys home, he’s intrigued. He’s also very attracted to Shirley & their night together leads to complications for her professional life when a gossip website features them on its front page the next morning.

The abuse allegations have surfaced on an internet forum for St Olaf’s old boys. The target of the allegations is Colin Marsden, former St Olaf’s boy who made a fortune from a chain of sports stores after famously starting off sweeping floors in a supermarket. Colin had returned to the Home after leaving, supporting Father Dardenne & organising sporting activities for the boys. Marsden’s personal life has spun out of control after an affair with a young woman & his wife is divorcing him. His business also looks to be in trouble as someone seems to be manipulating the share market. Shirley & John both have a personal connection to St Olaf’s but she wants John to investigate informally because of the potential for scandal.

John’s investigations are complicated by his notoriety. When Father Dardenne is found dead, poisoned, after John had visited him, the local police are only too happy to take him in for questioning. Another suspect is Warren Clegg, a former St Olaf’s boy who has been active on the internet forum & was also seen at Father Dardenne’s home on the day of his death. A second suspicious death sends the investigation in yet another direction & John must navigate through a tangle of blackmail & lies to get to the truth.

The Communion of Saints is the third book in the LS9 series. I really enjoyed the first two books, Hope Road & Father and Son, & have been waiting impatiently for the third book. I love a crime series which is based on compelling characters & John Ray is one of the most compelling, ambiguous characters in crime fiction. The ambiguity of his character & his actions is always intriguing. He takes Shirley out for a very expensive meal but how does he afford that on a teaching assistant’s salary? John had handed over his family’s second hand car business to a distant cousin, Connie Garcia, spends a lot of money at the casino & buys very expensive alcohol. Where does his money come from? Shirley instigates an investigation into this as she’s not sure how far she can trust John. He trained as an accountant, trying to escape his family’s criminal empire, but could he be using those skills to fund his lifestyle?

I also loved Shirley Kirk. A woman in her fifties who has risen in the ranks of a chauvinistic profession. Close to retirement but not sure she wants to make that decision. The exposure of her relationship with John does her no favours & the office politics are fascinating. Who tipped off the gossip website? The timing could hardly be worse with the job of Assistant Chief Constable about to become available – a job that Shirley is well-qualified for. Shirley’s past & her links to St Olaf’s have an influence on the investigation & she’s not afraid to play both sides of the game – using her relationship with John (& investigating his finances) as well as calling in favours from her colleagues when necessary. She’s a confident woman & her attraction to John doesn’t get too much in the way of her duty. The minor characters are also fully formed, from the sympathetic Father Dardenne to Connie (loved catching up with her again. There’s a great scene between Connie & Shirley that was so tense as the two women sized each other up) & Warren who becomes entangled in something much too complicated for him to grasp.

The Communion of Saints is a page-turner. I’m sure I missed some of the clues because I was reading so fast. I certainly didn’t put it all together until the very end. The series is a little more hardboiled than most of the mysteries I read but the descriptions of violence are never gratuitous & easy to skip if you’re as squeamish as I am. I love character-driven stories & John Ray is definitely the driver of these books. Attractive, vulnerable but exuding a confidence that is attractive to women even as it irritates those who would love to see him take a fall. I’m really looking forward to the next novel in this compelling series.

Thank you to John for sending me a review copy. More information about John & the series can be found on his website.

Sunday Poetry – John Keats

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I realise it’s still summer but I’m allowed to dream of autumn. I’ve just finished reading Alexandra Harris’ latest book, Weatherland, a study of English weather in the work of writers & artists. I especially enjoyed the section on Keats & this beautiful poem, one of my favourites,  was quoted in full.

It hasn’t been a particularly hot summer in Melbourne so far but today it’s humid & I’m waiting impatiently for the promised cool change, thunderstorm & rain. Until it arrives, dreaming of an English autumn will have to do.

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
   Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
   With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
   And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
      To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
   With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
      For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
   Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
   Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
   Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
      Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
   Steady thy laden head across a brook;
   Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
      Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of spring? Ay, Where are they?
   Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
   And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
   Among the river sallows, borne aloft
      Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
   Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
   The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
      And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Literary Ramblings

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Here are just a few bits & pieces that I want to share – a quick review, some publishing news (more Furrowed Middlebrow – hooray!), a blog post that had me reaching for the tissues with tears of laughter & some new bookcases with obligatory cat picture. Phoebe is not defying gravity here, she’s decided that my new bookshelf is her new favourite spot for sleeping & just generally looking out over her world. I don’t know why photos I take on my phone refuse to be rotated even when they look fine in my editing software. Anyway, you’ll just have to look sideways at this one.

shelfThe new shelves were a gift from some friends who are downsizing. I’ve used them to shelve my unread Slightly Foxed & Folio Society editions. Apart from looking lovely, this has also freed up some room on the tbr shelves in the study. Not that I’m buying books. I’ve bought only a few books since October & have no desire to buy at the moment. This is what happens. I stop buying & then, gradually, the desire to buy just fades away… I only have two preordered books  – Isabella of Castile by Giles Tremlett (due in a couple of weeks)  & Richard III by Chris Skidmore (which I ordered in August 2014 & is now due in September although I’m not holding my breath).

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I also now have all my DVDs in one place & in alphabetical order. I haven’t separated the watched & unwatched, they’re just one sequence. These shelves were the exact size I was looking for, as you can see. They fit perfectly in the space beside the window.

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I’ve just finished listening to a wonderful audio book, The Outsider, Frederick Forsyth’s memoir. I haven’t read any of his novels (although I’m now keen to read or listen to The Day of the Jackal & The Odessa File)but I was intrigued to listen to this after John le Carré’s The Pigeon Tunnel. It sounds a silly thing to say about an author who has sold millions of copies of his books over the last 45 years but he’s such a great storyteller. I loved hearing about his wartime evacuation as a baby to a Norland training school where the nannies practiced on him, learning French & German on holidays where he immersed himself in the languages by staying with local families, his experiences as the youngest pilot in the RAF, the years in East Berlin & Africa as a journalist & the experience of writing his early novels & seeing Jackal made into a film. Beautifully read by Robert Powell, one of my favourite narrators.

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Darlene at Cosy Books has reviewed one of the latest Persephones, Long Live Great Bardfield by Tirzah Garwood. If this review doesn’t make you long to get hold of this book, I don’t know what will. It’s very close to the top of my tbr pile.

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Speaking of Persephone, another book has leapt from the tbr shelves to the reading table after reading the latest Persephone Letter. As well as short stories & wartime letters from London, Mollie Panter-Downes also wrote this account of Ooty, one of the Indian hill stations where the English of the Raj spent the summer months. I picked this up second hand years ago in a previous fit of Panter-Downes enthusiasm. I wonder if Persephone are planning a reprint?

The most exciting publishing news I’ve heard in a while has been Scott’s announcement of the next titles in his Furrowed Middlebrow imprint (in conjunction with Dean Street Press). I’m especially excited by the Elizabeth Fair titles which sound perfect for fans of D E Stevenson, Angela Thirkell or E M Delafield. Also The Lark by E Nesbit which was enthusiastically reviewed by Simon here. They’re being published in March so I can feel a fit of preordering coming on when the books are listed at the Book Depository.

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Finally, I’ve also started another long book. A group of readers (see the post here at I’ve Been Reading Lately) are going to read Clarissa by Samuel Richardson on the dates that the letters in the book were written (it’s an epistolary novel). It’s not too late to join in. The book begins on January 10th & there’s a flurry of letters until January 20th then nothing until February 20th.

Sunday Poetry – Sir Thomas Wyatt

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I’ve mentioned this terrific site before, Interesting Literature (do sign up for their daily email newsletter, I’m often reminded of an author or poem I love). Here they discuss one of my favourite poems by Sir Thomas Wyatt. I’m fascinated by his life which seems to have been so unsatisfied & thwarted by political & personal misfortunes. It’s partly his connection to Anne Boleyn & the court of Henry VIII but I also find him an attractive figure & one of my favourite poets, for all the difficulty of deciphering his allusive poetry. Nicola Shulman’s book, Graven with Diamonds, is an excellent account of Wyatt’s life & times & helped me understand the poetry more than anything else I’ve read about him.

They flee from me that sometime did me seek
With naked foot, stalking in my chamber.
I have seen them gentle, tame, and meek,
That now are wild and do not remember
That sometime they put themself in danger
To take bread at my hand; and now they range,
Busily seeking with a continual change.

Thanked be fortune it hath been otherwise
Twenty times better; but once in special,
In thin array after a pleasant guise,
When her loose gown from her shoulders did fall,
And she me caught in her arms long and small;
Therewithall sweetly did me kiss
And softly said, ‘Dear heart, how like you this?’

It was no dream: I lay broad waking.
But all is turned thorough my gentleness
Into a strange fashion of forsaking;
And I have leave to go of her goodness,
And she also, to use newfangleness.
But since that I so kindly am served
I would fain know what she hath deserved.

The Uninvited – Dorothy Macardle

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Roddy Fitzgerald is a writer & critic, living in London with his sister, Pamela, who has been nursing their father & is mentally & physically worn out. The Fitzgeralds are tired of London life & are on the lookout for a place in the country. On a road trip, they discover Cliff End, a remote, slightly dilapidated but beautiful Georgian house on the coast in Devon. Pamela falls in love immediately & can see the possibilities while Roddy doesn’t think they can afford to buy it. Surprisingly, the owner, Commander Brooke, agrees to sell it for a nominal price, leaving the Fitzgeralds to pay for renovations. The Commander, a gruff man, seems uneasy about the house but says little about its history. He lives with his orphaned granddaughter, Stella, who has led a sheltered life at boarding school. Stella lived at Cliff End as a young child until the tragic death of her mother, Mary, who fell from the cliff. Her father, the artist Llewellyn Meredith, left England & the Commander cared for Stella with the help of Mary’s friend, Miss Holloway. Mary’s death combined with the scandal of Meredith’s relationship with his Spanish model, Carmel, may account for the Commander’s dislike of the house but local rumour whispers of the house being haunted.

Pamela begins the renovations with local help & Roddy winds up their London life. He plans to write a book but soon begins a play. Lizzie Flynn, the Fitzgerald’s Irish housekeeper, completes the household. Lizzie soon picks up the local gossip & her cat, Whiskey, refuses to go upstairs.  Stella is fascinated with the house & the Fitzgeralds are keen to invite her but her grandfather refuses absolutely, without reason, to allow the friendship to develop. Stella does visit the house & the manifestations seem to be stimulated by her presence. Stella’s reveres the mother she can barely remember but the spirit in the house seems to be both loving & vengeful. Is it trying to protect Stella or harm her? However much Roddy & Pamela love the house, there’s an unpleasant atmosphere in some of the rooms. Sobbing in the night & patches of intense cold lead to more frightening manifestations.

My hand groped, trembling, for the light switch; I turned it on and ran bare-foot downstairs. everything was as we had left it: a white cloth, thrown over the laden table, made it like a bier; the nursery was empty, the curtains closed; face powder strewed the dressing table; the scent of mimosa lingered, potent still.

I leaned against the wall, waiting for my heart to recover its natural beat, but a cold shivering had taken me and I longed for my own room. I turned the lights out and tried to go upstairs.

I could not do it; I trembled at the knees and shuddered convulsively, sick with the chill that seemed to shrink the flesh on my bones and wrinkle my skin.My breast was hollow and a breath blew over my heart. If I had not clung to the newel-post, fighting, I would have panicked; I would have shouted for Max or pulled the front door open and torn out of the house. I thought something was coming down the stairs.

The Uninvited is a genuinely creepy tale of ghosts & the influence that the past can have on the present. The familiar tropes of the ghost story – the remote, abandoned house, the noises in the night, patches of unexplained cold, the cat who refuses to go into certain rooms – are there but very much grounded in a domestic story of renovating a house, making a home. Roddy’s growing love for Stella is protective but his desire to rescue her from whatever is haunting the house is combined with a recognition that she is her own person. She has been stifled by her grandfather & by the image of the saintly Mary, encouraged by the sinister Miss Holloway (whose obsession with Mary reminded me of Mrs Danvers) as well as the locals. The Commander’s desire to root out any influence from Stella’s artistic, immoral father is almost pathological.

“She is her father’s daughter. She remembers him; that is the trouble. … She resembles him physically. The influence of that strain in her is so potent that it has been my life’s aim to break it down. God knows, I’ve left nothing undone! When Mary died I retired from the navy and dedicated myself to that purpose – to make Mary’s child the woman Mary would have wished her to be. I paid an exorbitant salary to Mary’s confidential nurse; I surrounded Stella with Mary’s pictures, gave her Mary’s books, sent her to the same school. It was a sacrifice: I missed her. But when she returned home a year ago I was pleased. She would always be without her mother’s grace, charm, beauty, but she was good. She was serious; she carried out her duties conscientiously; she continued her studies under my direction. I planned to take her abroad.”

To combat this stifling atmosphere becomes the goal of both Roddy & Pamela. In the course of this struggle for Stella’s future happiness, they are fighting not only her stubborn grandfather but also the uninvited inhabitants of Cliff End. Their determination to win through & release Stella from the ties of the past leads to a truly exciting climax.

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The Uninvited was made into what is considered one of the best supernatural movies ever made, one of the first to treat ghosts seriously & not just as comic relief. Starring Ray Milland, Ruth Hussey, Donald Crisp (one of my favourite character actors) & Gail Russell as Stella, it has a screenplay by Dodie Smith (of I Capture the Castle & Look Back with Love fame). I watched the movie first & it was very close to the book. The friends who visit the Fitzgeralds, Roddy’s play writing & most of the locals are left out but that just heightens the solitary atmosphere of the house & the supernatural manifestations. The Irishness is also almost completely removed. Macardle was an Irish writer, very active in the Republican movement, & much is made of the Irishness of the Fitzgeralds in the book. Lizzie’s Catholicism is very potent & more than just peasant superstition (which it tends to be in the movie) & the local priest, Father Anson, has a greater role.

The lovely new edition I read is part of Irish publisher Tramp Press‘s Recovered Voices series (I reviewed the first of the series, A Struggle for Fame by Charlotte Riddell, a couple of years ago). It’s a beautifully produced book with French flaps & an informative introduction by Luke Gibbons.

Sunday Poetry – Thomas Hardy

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Hardy can make any subject seem melancholy, even a gentle, English summer. That’s probably why I enjoy his poetry so much. In This Summer and Last, the speaker remembers a lovely summer in his past that can never be matched.

Unhappy summer you,
Who do not see
What your yester-summer saw!
Never, never will you be
Its match to me,
Never, never draw
Smiles your forerunner drew,
Know what it knew!

Divine things done and said
Illumined it,
Whose rays crept into corn-brown curls,
Whose breeze heard a humorous wit
Of fancy flit.—
Still the alert brook purls,
Though feet that there would tread
Elsewhere have sped.

So, bran-new summer, you
Will never see
All that yester-summer saw!
Never, never will you be
In memory
Its rival, never draw
Smiles your forerunner drew,
Know what it knew!