Princes in the Land, first published in 1938, is the story of Patricia Crispin and her experiences of being a wife and mother. We first meet Patricia as a child, shortly after her father has been killed in the Boer War. Patricia and her sister Angela are being taken by their mother to live with their grandfather, Lord Waveney, at his mansion in the countryside. While Angela is the quieter and better behaved of the two girls, Lord Waveney takes a special liking to the red-haired, freckled Patricia, who is more courageous and shares his love of horses.
Several years pass and Patricia marries Hugh Lindsay, a student from a poor background, much to the disgust of her mother who wanted Patricia to marry someone of her own class. Patricia and Hugh have three children, August, Giles and Nicola - and as they grow older they begin to disappoint Patricia as much as she had disappointed her own mother.
This novel has very little plot but raises a lot of interesting issues including marriage, parent/child relationships and class differences. The book itself is well-written and I liked the setting and the time period, but unfortunately I didn't enjoy it much at all.
The biggest problem I had with this book was the characters. I don't always need to like the characters to be able to enjoy a book, but in this case I think it would have made a big difference if there had been just one person I had been able to identify with and care about. Patricia and her mother both seemed to be complete snobs. Patricia's attitude towards her daughter-in-law, Gwen, is particularly nasty and based purely on the fact that she thinks Gwen's family are `common'. I don't mind reading about snobbish characters if they are written with a touch of humour or satire, as in Jane Austen novels for example, but that wasn't the case here. Patricia seems to think her attitude is perfectly acceptable and I felt that we, as the readers, were expected to agree with her.
I'm sure a lot of people would enjoy reading Princes in the Land much more than I did, so please don't let me put you off reading it. It was an interesting book, worthy of being a Persephone title and I can't fault the writing either, but the amount of snobbery and class-obsession was just too much for me.