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Pastors and Masters [Paperback]

Ivy Compton-Burnett
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 1984
Described in contemporary reviews as 'a work of genius', Pastors and Masters was an early work of a gifted author, noted for her rare skill for dialogue and for her incredible adeptness in capturing domestic scenes.
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Frequently Bought Together

Pastors and Masters + Manservant and Maidservant (New York Review Books Classics) + A House and Its Head (New York Review Books Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Allison & Busby; New edition edition (May 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0850315778
  • ISBN-13: 978-0850315776
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 12.4 x 1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,357,106 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


'Astonishing, amazing. It is like nothing else in the world. It is a work of genius' --The New Statesman

'It's short, funny, and...I would recommend it to those who want to give Ivy Compton Burnett a go, and don't feel up to one of her longer novels. If you like this, there's a lot more to explore - if you don't, at least it has one of Hesperus' beautiful covers!' --Stuck in a Book --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Ivy Compton-Burnett (1884-1969) was a celebrated English novelist noted for her wit and sardonic style. She won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and was awarded a DBE.Sue Townsend is a British novelist and playwright best known for the hugely popular Adrian Mole series and for such social satires as The Queen and I (1992) and Number Ten (2002) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ever decreasing circles 15 Feb 2010
By Annabel Gaskell VINE VOICE
Hesperus Press is another publisher whose raison d'être is bringing back neglected works into print and their list sounds very interesting (Pushkin, Flaubert and Charles Lamb etc). Printed on quality off-white paper with super matt wraparound soft covers, this novella was a physical pleasure to read. The reading itself was a little more difficult.

This was ICB's breakthrough novel after one previous effort, and at a mere 98 pages is a swift read. Published in 1925 at the age of 41, Pastors and Masters is set in a minor prep school of which Nicholas Herrick is the nominal headmaster. However apart from taking prayers in the morning he leaves everything to Mr Merry (who, gasp! is not a qualified teacher), plus Mrs Merry, Mr Burgess (who, phew! is qualified), and Matron Miss Basden. Herrick, with his younger sister Emily, prefers more intellectual pursuits engaging his friends in debate, and bragging about the book he is writing - will it ever get finished and be published? This is the basis of the plot, on which I'll expound no further.

ICB's style though takes a bit of getting used to. There's little descriptive prose, it's mostly dialogue and that is really clipped. The characters never shut up! They're constantly talking, mostly at each other, in engagements of verbal sparring, scoring points off each other. This is a group stuck in an old Victorian way of doing things, full of fake gentility. It was impossible to find a single likeable character who actually had anything interesting to say or did anything of merit whatsoever, something I suspect was a deliberate satirical ploy of ICB.

`How good we all are at talking without ever saying anything we think!' said Bumpus.
`It is not always politic to say what we think,' said Miss Basden.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Good Read. 18 April 2008
The Author is justifiably famous for her rich and subtle dialogue. This book is a wonderful introduction to her style.Her lack of description leaves so much to the reader's imagination . She wields her pen like a knife and cuts through the respectable genteel suburban life portrayed . The dialogue sparkles between characters;so much is said but not everything is revealed. It is a case of "we heard what you said but we know what you really mean." I found that I could not put this down, and have sought out her other works. She has an unusual writing style that is intriguing and satisflying. A good read.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lively and entertaining read 11 Feb 2010
By A. Hope
I was interested in reading a Compton-Burnett novel, as I recently read a biography about the novelist Elizabeth Taylor, and Compton-Burnett a good friend of hers, and was referred to in the book a great deal.
In the forward to the novel, Sue Townsend suggests that readers might find it a hard read at times, that Compton-Burnett's style takes some getting used to. The novel is written almost completely in dialogue. I didn't however find it a difficult read, the style is a little unusual prehaps, but the writing is so very good that it flows easily and makes for a quick and lively read. The characters are quirky and fully developed in spite of being written about in a style that one might think doesn't lend itself to the description of characters, and yet within the great swathes of dialogue there emerges strong and distinct characters. The novel centres around a school, and those who run it or work there and their intellectual friends. This is the first book by this author I have read, but it probably won't be the last.
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