The Music at Long Verney Paperback – 1 May 2003
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"Reading these almost-lost stories is like finding a buried treasure of fine gold and silver" Alison Lurie; "On every page, there is something to be seen or smelled or felt... Beneath her refined witchery lies a strange freshness one can only call, in praise, primitive" John Updike --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Sylvia Townsend Warner was born at Harrow-on-the-Hill in London in 1893. Her first novel, Lolly Willowes (1926) brought her instant recognition and succes, but she is best known for her short stories, some 150 of which were published in the New Yorker between 1936 and 1977. Her works included seven novels, 14 collections of stories, a volume of poems and a biography of T. H. White. She died in 1978 in the village of Maiden Newton in Dorset. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Writing from the 1920s right through to the 1970s, Warner's stories are exquisite vignettes of numinous moments in the lives of ordinary - or extraordinary - English people. Frequently she begins with an ordinary event - a snowstorm, a bicycle ride, an invitation to tea - only for the story to metamorphose into a depiction of the magical, the mythical or the deeply resonant. In The Listening Woman, an elderly lady rediscovers her younger self through a long-forgotten painting; in the title story, two dispossessed gentlefolk find themselves accidental guests in their own home; in Stay, Corydon, Thou Swain a lovelorn draper's innocent rural outing ends in supernatural panic.
The centrepiece of the collection is a cycle of five stories dealing with the Abbey Antique Galleries and its unusual proprietor, Mr Edom, through whose idiosyncratic gaze we see a wealth of miniature dramas play themselves out amongst the objets d'art. A young woman, oppressed by her husband's good taste, steals a Victorian necklace under Edom's approving eye; a sudden power cut plunges the shop into a candlelit interlude which transforms the goods on sale into magical artefacts.
Warner's early life as a musician also surfaces frequently in these stories, with stories of overblown violinists, callow composers and class-ridden choral societies. Funniest of all is In the Absence of Mrs Bullen, in which an ageing diva impersonates her own charwoman, terrifying an impressionable piano tuner.
A treasure - either as an introduction to Warner's work, or as an adjunct to an existing collection.
"The Music of Long Verney", however, disproves this, with almost every story being a delight. Written over the course of fifty years they are lucid snapshots containing perceptively-drawn characters, in which one episode illuminates the wider whole.
Some of the stories are very funny, particularly 'Maternal Devotion' and 'Tebic' (read this, if only to find out what Tebic is); while others are poignant, as 'The Candles' and 'The Listening Woman'.
The book itself is a fine hardback, with a biographical introduction by William Maxwell and a critical afterward by Michael Steinman.