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4.0 out of 5 stars FAMILY HISTORY : NO DETOUR AHEAD, 20 Dec 2007
This review is from: Family History (Paperback)
The core of this novel is a love affair between Miles, a 25 year old socially conscious aristocrat, and Evelyn, a 39 year old fashionable upper middle class widow; the business based family she has married into has just joined the aristocracy by way of a peerage. These are shifting times. While the pair are passionately in love they both have powerful domineering personalities and are essentially different. They clash and merge and make each other happy and unhappy. Evelyn is jealous and demanding but controls her nature as far as she can; she is always aware of the unconventional age gap and is less confident in Miles's world. Miles has many compartmentalised interests including his love for Evelyn, his estate (a replica of Sissinghurst), politics, his interesting friends and he will publish a well received book on economics. He is set to become a successful, popular politician. He is a Renaissance man, and Vita's favourite Elizabethan type (as she saw herself). As they drive for the first time to Miles's estate they pass a terrible accident and as they turn down the lane to the estate the `Private Road: No Thoroughfare' sign brings on more portents for Evelyn and the reader. Yes, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

"She unlike him, had nothing to do with her time except to wring pleasure out of it. Moreover, she was violently and painfully in love, never having really been in love before. When she had married Tommy Jarrold she had believed herself to be in love, because it was the orthodox thing to do when one became engaged; but she now discovered the difference." She has a lovely son, based on Ben, Vita's first born son.

Miles "....was only 25. Love was a new discovery for him. He treated it as an enormous new region of life for him to explore, rushing into it with tremendous excitement. Yet he could keep it quite separate from other things; which annoyed Evelyn."

"Love and the woman were insufficient for an active mind. Love and the man, however, were all-too-sufficient for a starved heart and unoccupied mind. Miles learnt it, to his cost; Evelyn never learnt it, to hers."

Because of Evelyn's sense of convention, age and her lack of confidence she requires unequivocal total love ('one never gets enough love') and cannot say yes to Miles's seemingly casual marriage proposals. Miles values his independence. The inevitable break happens; they have a cruel row. Can Evelyn rebuild her life without the man she adores? The poignant unexpected ending brought a tear in my eye.

The novel includes a sketch of the 'middle class' Jarrold family. They still hold onto Victorian and Edwardian conventions while Miles moves in more intellectual, less confined circles (including Viola, Sebastian and Leonard Anquetil from `The Edwardians'). Evelyn's son, heir to the Jarrold fortune, is influenced by Miles and even more progressive. The generational layers of social change are well captured.

I enjoyed reading `Family History' because of its glimpses of 1930s high society and the early days at Sissinghurst, and, its utilisation of biographical elements including the harmful nature of the passionate love Vita encouraged in her affairs. Important elements of the novel are drawn from the Vita and Violet experience as well as from her current passionate affair with Evelyn Irons -by now Vita had established a pattern. Victoria Glendinning's introduction calls the book a period piece. It was published in 1932 and the social background is of its time (and interesting for that) but the dynamics of the love story are easy to understand today. Recommended.

NB Given the age of this book, readers should be prepared for the rare politically incorrect clanger.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A good read., 13 Aug 2013
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I did enjoy this book although I was puzzled by the spelling of 'thatt'! A great book of the period.
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Family History
Family History by Vita Sackville-West (Paperback - 22 Sep 1988)
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