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A Compass Error [Paperback]

Sybille Bedford
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
RRP: 9.99
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Book Description

15 Sep 2011
While her mother travels with a new lover, Flavia, daughter of the Mondaine Constanza, lives alone in a Provencal villa, Studying for Oxford entrance, she is taken up and seduced by the wife of a fashionable painter, doomed to betrayal, the idealistic Flavia discovers her true inheritance.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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A Compass Error + A Favourite of the Gods + A Legacy (Penguin Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Daunt Books (15 Sep 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1907970037
  • ISBN-13: 978-1907970030
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 202,849 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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First Sentence
The clarity of those mornings of spring and early summer, the second year at St-Jean, the sense of peace, slow time, the long day to come, the summer, the year; the years. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous Novel From A Major Writer 1 April 2003
Format:Paperback
A Compass Error prefigures the action in Bedford's booker shortlisted novel Jigsaw. Really insightful, poised and sophisticated writing from a novelist you can't afford not to know. Read this and all of her books and enrich yourself.
One of the most fascinating things about Bedford's novels, all separate yet interlinked, is that they revisit her own past from an ever growing awareness - her three major novels were written at a very slow rate - one in the 50s one in the 60s and one in the 80s (her 70s work was the major Huxley biog). If you read them in chronological order you accompany Bedford as she returns to deep and troubling events in her life. These are fabulous books and manage to be about herself without a hint of self-indulgence. I hope that Bedford publishes again.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 'I made a wrong start...it got me off course' 23 Jun 2012
By sally tarbox TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
It's the 1930s and 17 year old Flavia is living alone in the south of France while her mother and her married lover are travelling; a charmed existence, her days devoted to studying for Oxford punctuated by swimming and eating out. She has grand plans for an academic future.
Then she is taken up by various local people and falls in love with the duplicitous Andree... Flavia's subsequent lifestyle traced back to these early events.
She observes, as an adult, "When one's young one doesn't feel part of it yet...everything is a rehearsal...to be put right when the curtain goes up in earnest. One day you know that the curtain was up all the time. That was the performance".
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A semi- autobiographical novel 19 Oct 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Sybille Bedford has written some wonderful pieces but this one is a little limp and unconvincing. Her portrait of her heroine, even though she is obviously based upon the author, does not ring entirely true.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.5 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars ' "I made a wrong start...it got me off course" 23 Jun 2012
By sally tarbox - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
It's the 1930s and 17 year old Flavia is living alone in the South of France while her mother and her married lover are travelling; a charmed existence, her days devoted to studying for Oxford punctuated by swimming and eating out. She has grand plans of an academic future.
Then she is taken up by various local people and falls in love with the duplicitous Andree...Flavia's subsequent lifestyle traces back to these early events.
She observes as an adult "when one's young one doesn't feel part of it yet...everything is a rehearsal...to be put right when the curtain goes up in earnest. One day yoy know that the curtain was up all the time. That WAS the performance."
4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Did they not tell you this is the sequel? 14 April 2003
By Emily Bell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
You have to read Favourite of the Gods first. Favourite is much better but you will have to read this one too to further explore this complex and courageous mother and daughter pair.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sybille's Saga 9 Sep 2008
By F. noyes - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'm plowing my way through the Sybille Bedford collection of writings and this one happened to be next on the list. I've become quite fond of her peripatetic style of writing, weaving the semi-autobiographical stories among the well written travelogue of the 30's. Compass left me disappointed, unfortunately.

The story was somewhat repetitive of some of her earlier books, an autobiographical rehash. It did give some insight into the direction her libido was taking her as a teenager, alluding to the passion of her affairs with strong, older women. She might have elaborated more on this aspect of her awakening but perhaps felt constrained by her generational decorum.

For the Sybille Bedford devotees this is a must read; all others may want to take a pass.
3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Compass gone awry 6 Nov 2005
By J. Marren - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Bedford's sequel to "A Favorite of the Gods" again takes place in that charmed era "between the wars," when movement between countries was easy, artists, writers and scholars congregated in a tourist-free South of France, and one seemed able to live well on pennies. The story opens with the 17 year-old Flavia being left quite alone in St. Jean, as her mother goes off with her fiance (as soon as he gets divorced, that is) and the family's faithful maid returns to Italy. Flavia lives a solitary, regimented life of study for university exams until taken under the wing of the wecoming Therese, who presides over a home with her children, a famous, tempermental artist-husband, and numerous unidentified lovers. Flavia soon becomes one of these, slowly realizizng that she prefers women over men, although it is "understood" that given her age she has had no experience of the opposite sex.

All this is portrayed by Bedford as perfectly innocent and normal, until the malicious Andree arrives on the scene. Flavia falls hard, not realizing who Andree really is, and none of her new found friends sees fit to enlighten her. In a new forward, Bedford asks whether Flavia really knew in her heart, and chose to ignore her instincts. Bedford readily admits that it may seem improbable that Flavia wouldn't find out, but nevertheless this is the moral dilemma she presents.

I won't give anything else away--all this is more or less described in the forward--but what is disturbing about this tale is the weight of responsibility for her actions that all place squarely on Flavia's shoulders. I saw the story quite differently. Flavia is an odd mix of sophistication and innocence, left on her own, prey to all. Why is not Therese responsible for seducing her? Why isn't Andree judged to be fully responsible?

I won't say more, but I found my owm moral compass disturbed as I read Bedford's novel. She's a beautiful writer; the more autobiographical the story, the better she is. But a reader needs to shed his or her 21st century notions of how teenagers should be protected (or at least how one would like to protect them) and what the responsibility of adults is, to enter fully into the story.
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