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on 6 April 2015
I didn't find it as striking or absorbing as Comyn's earlier work, "Who Was Changed And Who Was Dead" - the quirky surreal element limited to Alice's levitational feats. Also, it lacks the black humour of "Who Was Changed". Instead, the unpalatable injustices of life are presented in a dour, unrelenting simplicity through the eyes of Alice, victim and heroine, who endures her daily trials, big and small, with a limp stoicism. It makes for a downbeat melancholy feel, emphasised by the austere, 1950's parochial setting.

I wonder too if Alice, at seventeen, is drawn a shade too naive, too childlike for her years. There does seem something stunted and switched-off about her, dare I say insipid? Not to say such young women don't exist, just that her passivity does rather mute the drama. At times her father's treatment resembles that of a vicious schoolboy torturing a prone, insentient insect.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 22 August 2014
This is my first acquaintance with Barbara Comyns. This novel seems to be generally regarded as one of her best. It is agreeable and possessed of a strong sense of time and place. In a way I think this is both the book’s strength and its weakness. By contemporary standards the writing and the events described seem rather muted.

If Barbara Comyns reminds me of anyone it is Barbara Pym, wonderful at her best but variable in standard. Here we find the same delight in particularities, but also a fresh dimension, which dominates the second half of Ms. Comyns’ novel. I find the treatment of levitation and its metaphorical or symbolic implications less successful than the observations on people, relationships and places which make up the earlier sections of the book.

When all is said and done, while I find the book not entirely satisfying, there is certainly sufficient of interest to prompt further incursions into the author’s writing.
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on 29 July 2016
What a very very extraordinary and magnificent little book! Right up my street! Highly original, and a brilliantly compulsive read. The voice of the main character, Alice, 17, is completely compelling. I suspect she will stay with me for a very long time. And the storyline is shrewd and wonderful. I absolutely loved it. Excuse me if I go now and just see what else I can find by Barbara Comyns ... Perfect!
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on 23 December 2012
A wonderful quirky book which I read after reading 'Our spoons came from Woolworths' and 'The Juniper tree' by the same author- both of which I also loved. The Vet's daughter tells of young girl living in a totally dysfunctional famiy with her invalid mother and abusive and drunken vet father. The girl Alice Rowlands looks after her very sick mother until she dies and is then left with a father of whom she is terrified and who treats her as a servant looking after both he, his lady friend and the father's collection of animals. This book is so surreal and unusual and with such black humour that one must not be put off by the basic storyline. Alice finds that she can levitate and this eventually leads to the books very unpredictable ending.
This is a book I just could not put down and I cannot recommend it enough. This is a totally new writer for me and I just wish that she had written more books before she died.
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on 17 May 2017
I was disappointed not to have joyed this story, but found the details too upsetting, being an animal lover. Not a pleasant experience.
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on 30 May 2018
interesting quirky book. Recommended. Thanks to Backlisted podcast
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on 5 October 2017
Made levitation seem possible
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on 4 February 2017
A very depressing book, but interesting....
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on 28 December 2013
Love this author. The books are so unusual. I'm working my way through all she has written. Wish I'd discovered her sooner.
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on 22 February 2004
Like a lot of Barbara Comyns' work, this novel is a bit of an oddity, but undoubtedly a very enjoyable (though sometimes unsettling) one. Alice Rowlands lives with her domineering father (the Vet of the title) and her sad, browbeaten mother, until the latter's death from cancer. After an embarassing and traumatic incident brough about through the machinations of her father's new lover, Alice is packed off to the country as companion to depressed elderly lady Mrs Peebles. In the countryside, she discovers unsuspected joys and freedoms, including flirtation with a handsome young local lad. She also finds a surprising new talent - she can levitate at will. However, her happiness is short-lived: she has been neglecting her duties with tragic consequences, and after her return to her father and his new wife, things quickly turn very nasty indeed...
For readers unfamiliar with her other books, Comyns' writing style (which has been memorably described as "Beryl Bainbridge on acid") is likely to come as a shock. Alice is the rather childlike first-person narrator throughout, and sees the world from a unique perspective. The opening lines give a flavour of this: "A man with small eyes and a ginger moustache came and spoke to me when I was thinking of something else. Together we walked down a street that was lined with privet hedges."
Like Alice herself, the book has only a provisional connection with our solid earth, and has an unsettling, otherworldly feel throughout. Part of what is so disconcerting is Comyns' remarkable talent for dealing with real horrors (domestic violence, suicide, sexual assault) with a determinedly light touch, in amongst the mundane events of day-to-day life.
For me, this book perhaps wasn't quite as memorable as her earlier works "Our Spoons Came from Woolworths" and the utterly extraordinary "Sisters By a River". However, it's certainly a gripping read, and a fine example of her unique voice.
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