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Lolly Willowes (VMC Book 239) [Kindle Edition]

Sylvia Townsend Warner , Sarah Waters
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)

Print List Price: £9.99
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Kindle Edition £7.59  
Kindle Edition, 1 Mar. 2012 £6.49  
Hardcover £21.77  
Paperback £7.99  
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Book Description

Lolly Willowes is a twenty-eight-year-old spinster when her adored father dies, leaving her dependent upon her brothers and their wives. After twenty years of self-effacement as a maiden aunt, she decides to break free and moves to a small Bedfordshire village. Here, happy and unfettered, she enjoys her new existence nagged only by the sense of a secret she has yet to discover. That secret - and her vocation - is witchcraft, and with her cat and a pact with the Devil, Lolly Willowes is finally free.

An instant success on its publication in 1926, LOLLY WILLOWES is Sylvia Townsend Warner's first and most magical novel. Deliciously wry and inviting, it was her piquant plea that single women find liberty and civility, a theme that would later be explored by Virginia Woolf in 'A Room of One's Own'.

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One of our most idiosyncratic, courageous and versatile writers (HERMIONE LEE)

A novel as original in its conception as it is subtle and refined in its artistry ... LOLLY WILLOWES retains all of the charm and all of the 'relevance (it owned years ago')

TLS ('Witty, eerie, tender')

JOHN UPDIKE, NEW YORKER ('She has a talent amounting to genius')


The novel sharply undercuts its genteel appearance to reveal a dark and visceral heart ... An elegantly enchanting tale that transcends its era -- Lucy Scholes Observer 20120318 One of our most idiosyncratic, courageous and versatile writers HERMIONE LEE 'Witty, eerie, tender' Times Literary Supplement She has a talent amounting to genius John Updike, New Yorker

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This was Townsend Warner's first novel, and it's a striking one, which by all accounts caused quite a stir when it first appeared in 1926. The innocent-sounding title, and the quasi-Victorian, Gilbert-and-Sullivanish subtitle "Or, The Loving Huntsman" are deliberate attempts to lead the reader up the garden path. For the Loving Huntsman is none other than the Devil himself, to whom maiden aunt Lolly Willowes has sold her soul for a bit of peace and quiet.
Laura Willowes, known to friends and family as Aunt Lolly, is the youngest child and only daughter of brewery owner and doting father Everard, with whom she lives a happy, bookish existence until his sudden death when she is twenty-eight. She moves in with her brother and sister-in-law in London, who treat her with well-meaning condescension as a sort of unpaid nanny: "Henry and Caroline did all they could to prevent her feeling unhappy. If they had been overlooking some shame of hers they could not have been more tactful, more modulatory." Friends and family are unanimous in considering the Lolly problem settled. A few years later, however, she astonishes them all by renting a cottage in the obscure Bedfordshire village of Great Mop, where she intends to stay alone. But all is not as it seems there: the village community seems strangely closed, and there are odd goings-on by moonlight. None of this greatly troubles Lolly, who relaxes into a gentle nature mysticism. However, when her family begin inviegling for her return to London, she finds that there is no option but to invoke supernatural assistance...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Always Worth Reading 3 July 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Sylvia Townsend Warner's debut novel is always worth reading. A hit in its day it has always remained her most popular book, although all her tales are well worth reading. A story most definitely of its time this is much more than a whimsical read, which alas for all of Warner's books have got a reputation for being whimsical, or too hard. This book indeed has a whimsical surface, but scratch away the veneer and you will find something much deeper.

Laura 'Lolly' Willowes has grown up with her father, and then eventually living with one of her brothers. Gradually aging and being a spinster she lives as many others of her type have done so, always with members of the family, alone to a certain extent, bored and to an extent put upon for help. As the First World War takes men off to battle women are more and more called upon to fill men's roles, and Lolly does her little bit by making up parcels. With the world returning to a degree to its old habits, Lolly eventually finds a yearning for something more.

Leaving by herself she moves to Great Mop in the Chilterns. Seemingly an idyllic pastoral setting, it seems as if Lolly has found her own paradise, but then Tobias, one of her nephews, also moves to the area. As Lolly wants to be left alone, so she meets the 'Devil'.

This story, which was extremely relevant at the time is still for a lot of women quite relevant to their lives nowadays. If you are stuck at home, you would like to get a job, or just take more interest in something, then this book is well worth reading. With a light touch Warner tackles a problem that took most of her peers pages and pages to put down.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars John Updike praises this perennial classic 11 Feb. 2000
By A Customer
'With a chilling immediacy this book speaks today, as it did in 1925, for women. Not only women like Laura who are incapable of loving men, but for all those who have been "subdued" into ladyhood, or dwindled into wives. Women were strongly concerned with their status during the first forty years of this century. Now, after a sleep of twenty years, they, like Lolly Willowes, are awake again, seeking for lives of their own...Lolly the witty, eerie, tender but firm life history of a middle-class Englishwoman who politely declines to make the expected connection with the opposite sex and becomes a witch instead' -- John Updike, THE NEW YORKER
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5.0 out of 5 stars Gentle Witch 13 April 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The story of Laura Willowes who (belives she has) sold her soul to the devil in return for freedom from her tiresome family. The book begins with the bleak statement that, her father having died and she being unmarried and already 28 years old, Laura must go to live with her married brother in London. Laura is dreamy and unambitious. Unlike a modern fable where she would discover amazing talents and dynamism once released from her family, Laura remains dreamy to the end - good for her! The first half of the book describes the successful, organised, dull life of her brother's family in their London house. Having endured 20 years there and helped bring up one generation of children, the family assumes Aunt Lolly will do the same for the next generation too. But she makes the first of her increasingly frequent stands against convention and goes off to live by herself in a small Chiltern village. The second half, where she escapes further and further from polite society, with the help of mild spells and encouraging conversations with the devil, is the heart of the book. I loved it.
Why have Virago used a stark cover pictre of the folly on Mow Cop? The essence of the Chilterns portrayed in the book is all night sounds, beech leaves, damp soil and darkness - just the opposite of the sharp visual senses.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars The Devil turns up half way through and and is described as a helpful...
This book is beautifully written, and has lovely descriptions of the natural world. However, The Devil appears as unexpected character half way through the book (Huh? Read more
Published 2 months ago by Lucy P
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
An odd book .....
Published 3 months ago by J E Furnivall
3.0 out of 5 stars Happy to find a new author
Bought it following a glowing review in the Guardian. Happy to find a new author, a period peice with some interesting insights into the life of a middle class spinster taken in by... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Sussexgardener
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Published 8 months ago by sandra
3.0 out of 5 stars Sympathy for the Devil
This unusual novel is slow to get going; it really only takes off in the last 50 or so pages. Nevertheless it is good fun and, in the very last pages, gets it point across with... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Tufnell Paul
1.0 out of 5 stars Spoiler Alert! I hate some reviewers, not the book...
Why do they do it? Now I know most of the plot and the ending - and I haven't even bought it yet! Tell me if you enjoyed it or not and why - but not what happens - please!
Published 14 months ago by E. Waterland
5.0 out of 5 stars Delicious
This is the most beautifully written, lyrical, eerie, delicious tale of witchcraft in rural England - I cannot recommend it enough. Read more
Published 17 months ago by V. G. Harwood
5.0 out of 5 stars Really loving the Huntsman
Alighted on this by accident - though recalled loving 'The Corner That Held Them' and was totally transfixed. Read more
Published 23 months ago by ChrisOutEast
5.0 out of 5 stars Wry, fantastical and true
The uneventful life history of an Edwardian spinster doesn't sound a riveting read, but it is. In part that is the quality of the writing - smooth, evocative, exact. Read more
Published on 24 Jun. 2013 by Wab Carlin
3.0 out of 5 stars Jarring changes in style
Two-thirds of this book are a lyrical narrative dealing with family relationships, which I felt was akin to E.M. Forster's novels. Read more
Published on 10 Mar. 2013 by joyfrankie
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