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The Tortoise And The Hare (VMC Designer Collection) Hardcover – 4 Aug 2011

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Virago; Reprint edition (4 Aug. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844087476
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844087471
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 13.2 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 290,925 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


A subtle and beautiful book ... Very few authors combine her acute psychological insight with her grace and style. There is plenty of life in the modern novel, plenty of authors who will shock and amaze you - but who will put on the page a beautiful sentence, a sentence you will want to read twice? (Hilary Mantel, Sunday Times)

Book Description

* This exquisite novel tells a love story with a difference.

* 'One of my favourite classics' Carmen Callil

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 44 people found the following review helpful By A. Craig HALL OF FAME on 4 Jun. 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Elizabeth Jenkins's The Tortoise and the Hare is one of the best novels I've ever read - a near-perfect work of art, like The Leopard and Emma. Yet its author is almost entirely unread, and has no presence on the Web. She should be feted as one of our most extraordinary authors simply on the basis of this one book.

Amazingly, Elizabeth Jenkins is still alive, at 105. She was made an OBE in 1995, and I was familiar with her only through her biography of Jane Austen, one of the few I feel sure JA herself would have approved of both for its elegance of expression and its insight.

But ...to describe The Tortoise and the Hare as a portrait of an agonising marriage is to do it an injustice. It is about Imogen, whose fading beauty and graceful self-effacement are insufficient to keep the interest of her husband, Evelyn. A 52 year old barrister - rich, successful, beautiful in an almost feminine way and selfish - he falls for the last person anyone would expect., a plain, dowdy middle-aged woman of wealth but no tact or taste. In a Bronte novel, our sympathies would perhaps be with Blanche, but it is Imogen in her passivity and silent agony who is the heroine. She can't even drive, she doesn't enjoy sex, she is bullied and derided by her own son... she is the kind of woman in a class which, according to Carmen Callil, has vanished since the early 19850s and yet I feel I know all too many Imogens. You want to scream at her to wake up, fight, do something more than suffer - like Nora in The Doll's House - and by the end of the novel it seems that she may yet make a life for herself, and the one person in the book who sees and loves her.

That makes it sound too grim, though, for the novel is shot through with dazzling wit.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Joyeuse VINE VOICE on 3 Oct. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I lost most of night's sleep reading this wonderful novel. After a succession of Barbara Pym's (and don't get me wrong, I love them too) this felt like steak after ice-cream. Whereas Pym explores her characters and their social milieu largely through dialogue Jenkins analyses the thought processes of her heroine from within.

Imogen does allow herself to be defeated but it is a lucky person who has never experienced the kind of subtle manipulation she is subjected to, and her whole life and particularly her relationship with her husband, has trained her to this vulnerability. Neither her temperament nor her experience has given her any chance to learn how to defend herself but it is clear at the end of the novel that she has a chance to begin to grow into independence and is likely to be set off on that path by a small boy who has experienced and faced the emotional isolation that she has endured without recognising it and is making his own bid for freedom and fufilment.

Although it is is a profoundly satisfying novel in itself it sets up a wonderful set of possibilities for a sequel and, not having one, the reader is sent off on a trail of "what ifs" in the subsequent lives of the characters, perhaps most strongly the inevitable come-upance lurking in the future of the awful Evelyn when the gilt wears off the gingerbread of his second marriage and he finds himself more deeply entapped than he can ever imagine. It's not without perception that one of his friends remarks that the second Mrs Gresham will have a very different view of the sanctity of marriage, particularly her own, than her husband has shown in his easy betrayal of his first wife.
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46 of 47 people found the following review helpful By booksetc on 18 Jun. 2009
Format: Paperback
Whoever is in charge of coverdesign at Virago should be shot. Please, please ignore this silly chick-litty cover - wrap the book in brown paper, if needs be - because it gives entirely the wrong impression of a subtle and perceptive novel.
Imogen is an upper-middle class 1950s wife; decorative, docile, dependent. The terrifying Blanche is a frumpish spinster (scary, how in the 1950s women are described as 'elderly' at 50), full of banked-up sexual energy and terrifying efficiency. The prize is Imogen's Alpha-male husband Evelyn ... now depending on the kind of man you find attractive, you'll either loathe Evelyn or find yourself drawn by his compelling masculinity. And yet, Evelyn - a man with a girl's name! - is magnetically drawn to the almost masculine Blanche.
As Princess Diana said, there are three in this marriage ... Jenkins made me sympathise with all of them. Frightful Blanche glows with this love that has come to her so late in life. Imogen's confidence is shattered - but heavens, you want to pick her up and shake her out of her passivity.
As well as this marital power struggle, Elizabeth Jenkins does a fine job describing the 1950s world that we have lost - its landscape, food, clothes, furnishings, its children and even the sound of its cars.
The longer I think about this novel, the better it seems ... elegantly written, often humorous, as good as Elizabeth Taylor. It was inspired by Jenkins's own relationship, as a very young woman, with a distinguished, married gynaecologist who didn't appear to her to be properly appreciated by his wife. When his wife died, he then married a neighbour - who became Blanche in the book - but soon resurfaced hoping that Jenkins would carry on their relationship as before.
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