Friday, 1 June 2018

Ivy in the New Age

Last week my addiction to Ivy Compton Burnett got the better of me again and I took down The Mighty and Their Fall from the shelf where it had been lurking unread for a surprisingly long time. There is little point in expatiating on the charm of ICB's novels (though I've probably done so quite often on this blog over the years) – you're either susceptible to it or you're not. Maybe it's a gene...  Anyway I loved The Mighty and Their Fall, for all its evident absurdities. Even by ICB's standards, this one is full of the most clunky plot contrivances – letters concealed and discovered, wills destroyed, conversations overheard, the return of a long-absent son – all deployed without compunction. The real action, the substance of the family psychodrama, is all in the subtle modulations of the dialogue, as ever, and it's beautifully done.
  I happened to find a review of The Mighty and Their Fall in the Spectator archives. It's by Olivia Manning, author of the Balkan Trilogy (and one of Auberon Waugh's minor betes noires). The review seems to have been computer-transcribed (hence some curious features), but here's the link... Much of it is taken up with a lengthy (and not entirely accurate) plot synopsis, but perhaps that was normal at the time. And the time was... 1961. It's a shock to realise that The Mighty and Their Fall, which of course inhabits a wholly Edwardian world, came out in the year Rabbit, Run was published in the UK (see the 'Just Published' sidebar), which was two years after Goodbye, Columbus and a full five after Seize the Day. A new age was well under way – but it was not one that would have impinged to the slightest degree on Ivy's eternally anachronistic world.

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