Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Lost Traveller and Family Roundabout

I've had a crazy weekend.  Last night I was walloped with a blinding headache, putting reading and blogging on the back burner.  At one point in time, I was nursing Atticus in the dark with a receiving blanket over my head to block out the cracks of light from the window.  Atticus thought this was HILARIOUS.  Atticus has had a rough weekend, too.  He's enduring his first cold, but he still managed to be jolly despite the boogers.

Atticus is still sniffly, but I'm feeling much better and I thought I'd write-up my thoughts on two books I finished recently:  The Lost Traveller by Antonia White and Family Roundabout by Richmal Crompton.

The Lost Traveller by Antonia White

The follow-up novel to White's Frost in May, The Lost Traveller follows Clara Batchelor* through the drama of being a young woman.  She is forced to leave her convent school because of financial troubles stemming from her mother's illness and generally tries to figure out where she fits in her family, her society, and the world at large.  I found this book to me more psychologically complex than Frost in May.  While Frost in May focused on the convent school and the heroine's experiences there, The Lost Traveller delves into the psychology of Clara, but also into her parents' psychological makeup.  Clara's relationship with her mother is strained, her mother adores her, but Clara cannot tolerate her mother.  Clara prefers -- in fact idolizes -- her father (who happens to be a pompous, chauvinistic bastard).  I REALLY HATE her father and you'll see why if you read the book.  My favorite part of the book was towards the end when Clara and her mother grow closer.  I can remember not getting along well with my mother as a girl and then growing close to her as a young woman.

The novel is also beautifully written.  Here is a favorite passage:
Listening, as if to music, to the ebb and flow of the four voices, Clara felt her whole self soften and expand.  She glowed with affection for each one of them, even her mother.  Enfolded, yet detached, she was conscious of her own life waiting round the corner; she was convinced that it would be rich and wonderful as theirs had never been.  Every gesture, every shift of shadow as the faces swam in and out of the circle of light, quickened some faculty she hardly knew she possessed.  The pendulum of the old clock beat like a leaden heart; the ribbons of smoke untwined from Isabel's cigarette; a luminous spot reflected from a wineglass shifted slowly down Aunt Leah's throat.  And it was as if all these details were connected, that they were like the separate letters of a word in an unknown language and that, if only she could understand the word, she would understand everything (page 131).

That passage almost reminds me of something from Howard's End or To the Lighthouse.  I'm not saying this novel is as cerebral as Forster or Woolf, but it is definitely a thought-provoking read.

Family Roundabout by Richmal Crompton

I'd never even heard of Richmal Crompton until I read this review of Family Roundabout by Thomas over at My Porch.  I agree with him that it is difficult to relate the plot of this novel, but I'll give it a go.  Essentially there are two familys:  the Willoughbys and the Fowlers.  The Willoughbys have wealth, but the Fowlers are nevertheless a respectable family.  The novel is composed of marriages and divorces, births and deaths.  This is a very simplistic plot summary, but truly this is one of those books where "nothing and everything happens."  Fans of Barbara Pym and Dorothy Whipple will love this book.  It is a Persephone book and I have yet to meet a Persephone I don't like!

I've finished one other book since my last posting, but I didn't care for it.  I'll be reviewing that book later in the week (hopefully).


*The protagonist of Frost in May is called Nanda Grey, but she is the same as Clara Batchelor.  All of this is explained in the introduction.

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