12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
A rediscovered gem....,
This review is from: Love's Shadow (The Bloomsbury group) (Paperback)I had never heard of Ada Leverson until I stumbled across an old Virago edition of The Little Ottleys at a book sale, bought it, read it and loved it. This title is no longer available so I am delighted that the Bloomsbury Group have republished the first in this Trilogy, Love's Shadow. Bloomsbury asked readers for suggestions for this particular book niche and, as this was one I mentioned and my by line is on the back of the book, you can imagine how pleased I am that it is available once more. I am deeply honoured to find that above my by line is one from Dame Edna (aka Barry Humphries) who describes the story thus: 'Saki meets Jane Austen in the delectable comedies of Ada Leverson' and while Love's Shadow is certainly comic, there is also sadness and unrequited love.
Edith is married to the unutterably ghastly Bruce Ottley (Mr Pooter without the charm), who is pompous, and vain. She has a young, beautiful friend Hyacinth Verney who is in love with the elusive and dashing Cedric Reeve. He, in his turn, is fascinated and infatuated with an enigmatic widow some ten years older than him, Mrs Raymond, who spurns his attentions and insists that he marries Hyacinth. In turn, Hyacinth is loved by her guardian Lord Cannon, unhappily married to the redoubtable and self deluding Lady Cannon who had "a very exalted opinion of her own charms, virtues, brilliant gifts and, above all, of her sound sense. Fortunately for her, she had married a man of extraordinary amiability who had taken very possible precaution to prevent her discovering that in this opinion she was practically alone in the world".
There is also a hint that Bruce, who is furious at Hyacinth's marraige, may also be in love with her....
Still with me?
Cedric has an Uncle Lord Selsey, who in his turn, becomes fascinated by Mrs Raymond and as she has been a widower for some time and he is a suitable match, decides to marry him. On hearing this news, Cedric then marries Hyacinth and though he does love her, he still has a secret yen for Mrs Raymond, now his aunt. It is this unrequited love that casts 'love's shadow' over their marriage and nearly brings him to disaster.
This sounds very convoluted, but the writing of this comedy of manners, because in the end it is a comedy, is so stylish and witty with such a deft touch that the reference to Jane Austen is not unwarranted. The main thrust of the story is this love triangle, (or should that be quadruple?) but balancing this out is the Edith/Bruce marriage and I think I can safely say that Bruce Ottley is one of the most irritating characters I have ever come across. Edith and her mother in law are joined in an unspoken alliance in managing Bruce and the knack is for Edith to ask him not to do something she really wants him to do, secure in the knowledge that he will then ignore her, do it and she will have achieved the desired result (I am sure there is not a woman living who will not understand this tactic....).
"I feel the want of air" said Bruce. " If you don't mind dear, I think I shall go for a stroll"
"Oh, don't" He went to the hall and put on his coat "Just a stroll, or I may look in the club. You don't understand Edith, a man feel rather cramped in these surrounding"
And off he goes to his club where no doubt he will empty the room and Edith makes her telephone call to Hyacinth for a gossip which is what she wanted to do all along.
The humour and awfulness of Bruce which can only make the reader laugh despite feeling that he really is worth strangling, counter balances the Mrs Raymond/Cedric/Hyacinth tangle which is all sorted out in the end by Mrs Raymond, now Lady Selsey, arranging to go away on a trip with her husband to the Greek Islands for a year or two, and leave Hyacinth and Cedric to sort themselves out. Left alone, Cedric will realise that he loves Hyacinth and though I feel that Lady Selsey is doing the right thing, I am left with the strong impression that she rather enjoyed being a femme fatale and only decided to let Cedric go when the marriage was in danger of collapse which would not have suited her at all. Not a pleasant character and I can hardly help but wonder what will happen when she returns. We will never know of course.
Ada Leverson has a satirical eye for the absurd as you can see by the reconciliation between Hyacinth and Cecil.
"Cedric, are you really sorry that she's going?"
"Not at all if I'm going to have a little peace now"
"Oh Cecil have I been unfair to you? I'm very very sorry. I see I was wrong. How could I be so horrid?"
"....you did make me feel pretty miserable"
"Oh poor boy. Then you don't care a bit for that woman then?"
"Not a straw!"
"Oh Cecil will you ever forgive me?"
"Well, I'll try" said Cecil.
After all the sturm and drang, threats of divorce and angry words, it is all sorted out in this rather silly little exchange and the reader is left with a wry smile at the comic-serious situation. Wonderful stuff.
Do read. I know you will love it.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 2 Sep 2009 15:54:42 BDT
Simon Thomas says:
Only four stars, Elaine? x
Posted on 3 Jan 2010 19:24:39 GMT
Last edited by the author on 3 Jan 2010 19:27:53 GMT
Louise K says:
Although an entertaining summary I disagree about Eugenia being an awful woman; it is Cecil who is an irritant hanger on who will not take no for an answer. However, I dare say she does enjoy her role as femme fatale. My main point about this review however is the fact that you give so much of the plot away. I'm only thankful I didn't read it first - to quote lines from the end of the book in a review is unforgivable! Let the reader discover that for themselves. This review should have a spoiler alert. The book is a real pleasure and delight deserving of 5 stars.
In reply to an earlier post on 22 Mar 2010 12:24:26 GMT
Elaine Simpson-long says:
Sorry Louise - will make sure a spoiler alert is put on next time I do it - as I know I will....
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