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Doves Of Venus Paperback – 6 Aug 1992

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Arrow; New Ed edition (6 Aug. 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099416042
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099416043
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.6 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 410,603 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

"Olivia Manning has a wonderful and unfailing flair for describing both the atmosphere and the furniture of the world in which her people move" (Listener)

"Manning writes always with a poet's care for words and it is her usual distinction of style and construction that lifts the novel- far, far above the average run" (Observer)

"The most considerable of our women novelists" (Anthony Burgess)

Book Description

The dramatic and intense depiction of a love triangle set against the fashionable background of 1940s London.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By S Riaz HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 1 July 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Olivia Manning is one of my favourite novelists and I am thrilled that her work is now being released on kindle. This story has Ellie Parsons as the central character; only eighteen years old and fleeing provincial life for the glamour of London. Her mother is disapproving that she came to London against her wishes, but Ellie is determined to make a success of her new, independent life. Wishing to become an artist, she finds work as a furniture packer, but is sure she can be promoted. One day, at her workplace, she mets Quintin Bellot, a shareholder. They embark on a love affair and he finds her a position in the 'studio' to her great delight. However, what for her is a major love affair is, for him, merely a fling.

Quintin, to be fair, has his own issues. A lifestyle and an income which don't match up, resentment at a father who managed to make a fortune and then lose it and a wife, the beautiful but self obsessed Petta, who flits in and out of his life. Petta is the social butterfly, aware she still has her looks, but not sure for how much longer she will be able to use them successfully and desperate to try to keep Quintin to maintain her lifestyle. Into this triangle are interwoven a cast of characters, all attempting to make a life in bleak, post war Britain. Olivia Manning evokes this society with wonderful vividness - a place where women who work are expected to have a private allowance to allow them to be paid less than men, for whom a job is an amusement until marriage and not a career to pay the bills. Jobs are scarce, everything drab and dull and postwar London a place to escape from.

Ellie's original joy of living is expressed in her initial optimism.
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Format: Paperback
Warning: this review contains spoilers.

A young woman, Ellie Parsons, escapes her dull suburban home to experience the excitement and bright lights of London in the mid-1950s.

Except, of course, that there are no bright lights and all she experiences is an unhappy love life.

Nearly all the characters are unsympathetic; Ellie is emotionally neurotic; her lover, Quintin, is a shallow cad; her lover's wife, Petta, vengeful and self-pitying; her boss, Mrs. Primrose, bitter and unfulfilled.

There is an emptiness, a phoniness about the characters' lives. Even the firm where Ellie works deals with fakery - a place where old furniture is antiqued.

This firm also employs a couple of gay men, though, because of the era in which the novel was published, Manning cannot state this explicitly. However, the ambiguity of their relationship is interesting and even more so their acceptance by their peers as part of the group who meet up for drinks in the pub.

The characters move seamlessly between their dingy rooms in West London and the upper class milieu of their employers. Everyone is short of money, living from hand to mouth. (The Second World War had only been over ten years and there were still housing shortages. What did strike me was the easy interplay between the classes - a feature of other novels published in the 1950s which I have read; again, this may reflect the breakdown of class attitudes brought about by the War).

If the rooms which the characters inhabit are dingy, then so is the weather - all fog and rain. The novel is typographically precise and clearly has strong autobiographical elements.

Very enjoyable and a good snapshot of bohemian life in 1950s London.
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By Sasha D on 9 Jan. 2014
Format: Paperback
After reading the truly one-of-a-kind "The Playroom", which had my mouth dropping open throughout, I was keen to read more of this author's work. I wasn't disappointed by this novel.

As a sworn lover of London (Londonphile?) it always fascinates me to read of other people's experiences in moving to the capital, and the day-to-day struggles of adjusting to metropolitan life, which haven't really changed over time - namely financial worries, dealing with isolation and trying to carve some kind of niche for yourself in this massive, teeming, hectic place.

The story follows a handful of characters in the 1950s based in and around SW3 over the course of a year or so. They are all related to / having relationships with one another in some way. Olivia Manning sensitively details their private struggles and often piercing insights into one another's flaws and failings. These are often sad, but I ultimately felt a sense of hope for most of the characters.

The two middle-aged male characters aren't particularly engaging and boringly easily manipulated by the women around them, but there are some fascinatingly strong female characters here that I would have loved to see more of - namely the calculating Maxine, hilarious Dahlia, enigmatic Nancy and also Ellie Parsons' mother and sister, who both seemed to have hidden depths during their limited appearances. I found them both more interesting that Ellie herself!

Ellie, the needy and naive protagonist, isn't always sympathetic but is completely relatable. This is a vivid and absorbing read, with some beautiful descriptions of London, and I was thankful for a much happier outcome than I expected.

A thought-provoking, amusing and memorable read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
better written than the Balkan Trilogy? 23 Nov. 2012
By algo41 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
While I am a big fan of Manning's "Balkan Trilogy", this is better written - or perhaps it is just easier to deal with a smaller stage; I was surprised to note that "The Doves of Venus" was written before the Balkan Trilogy. Both novels are interesting in their own ways.

As Isobel English notes in her introduction, Manning's painterly interests are expressed in her prose; she paints very concrete images in a simply style. Similarly, she is detailed in depicting the details of her characters' thoughts and emotions. Ellie Parsons is totally convincing as an earnest naïf who slowly becomes more worldly without ever permanently losing her youthful zest for life. She stands out amongst a set of remarkably egoistical characters as at least having a conscience and trying to be a good friend. Egoistical as the secondary characters may be, it is easy to relate to them. The characters are all inter-connected, although the connections only gradually emerge.

Parons's reflections on the funeral of a friend were certainly novel (p.307, paperback). "This death ....bringing her own death nearer and into perspective. That, she supposed, was how people came to accept death. Friends died and their presence there made a home for one in the grave."
Love in London in the late 1950s 27 May 2014
By Kindle Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This novel is a birds-eye view of the life of an 18 year old working class girl's coming of age in London in the late 1950s. Manning captures the calculations of the older, married man and contrasts them neatly with the protagonist's quest for love. To me, the novel captures what Alan Hollinghurst so aptly describes as "the poverty of English life".
An intertwining story 20 May 2013
By D. Langtry - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book was written after "School for Love," and before the "Balkan Trilogy." In my view it hasn't aged as well as either of them. It tells an intertwining story of three women, Ellie Parsons. who is determined to make it on her own in London after a stifling provincial upbringing, Petta, an aging beauty who, having placed all her chips on her looks, is now facing a bleak future, and Nancy, Ellie's friend who is cagier and more daring than Ellie. Two aging male figures, related to each other, on the prowl for young conquests exploit the neediness of the younger women. The entitlement and arrogance of these men is appalling and enraging. This book is said to be in some measure autobiographical, and fans of Olivia Manning might appreciate it for that reason. Manning, who herself was aging when she wrote "Doves," said she wasn't a "woman writer" but a writer who was a woman. Nevertheless she was paid less than her male counterparts, and wasn't taken as seriously. No wonder she was angry. But there is another theme in this book besides the exploitation of women and aging, and that is about independence, an independence of the soul, you might say. Where is an aging woman, whose beauty is faded, to find the love she seeks so desperately? It may be that "The Doves of Venus" allowed Manning to work out some issues for herself that then set the stage for the truly great books to follow.
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