Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Chatterton Square.....Finally.

I've been reading Chatterton Square by E.H. Young for what feels like forever. I first read E.H. Young earlier this year - Miss Mole - and enjoyed it so much that I obtained copies of many of her other novels, published by Virago as Modern Classics.

Chatterton Square is a very quiet book in which the action doesn't move much from the Square for which it is named. It is the tale of two families, The Blacketts and The Frasers. The Blackett family is headed by Herbert Blackett, a man with an inflated image of himself. He is quite concerned that his life appear a certain way, a 'proper' way, and insists that everyone in his household defer to him in all matters. Then there is Mrs. Bertha Blackett, who has on the surface been a proper and agreeable wife, but underneath it all harbors a great dislike, really a great hatred towards her husband. She simply loathes him, thinks him an insufferably silly man and the force with which her feelings are made clear is stunning. When Mr Blackett goes away, Bertha experiences freedom for the first time in her married life and it makes his homecoming all the more difficult and it is impossible for Bertha to hold her feelings in any longer.

The Fraser family is headed by Rosamund Fraser. She is separated from her husband who is overseas. She lives with her five children and a friend, Miss Spanner. Rosamund has lived on Chatterton Square her entire life and is a bit of a free spirit. Miss Spanner is the daughter of a minister and had a very unhappy childhood and expects to remain a spinster.

Mr Blackett does not approve of the Fraser family and their lifestyle, yet is oddly attracted to them. During Mr Blackett's travels, the families - particularly the adult women become friendlier which is very disturbing to Mr Blackett upon his return. The novel takes place just before England becomes involved in World War II which is a constant character in its own right, and of course each character has different views on how it will change their destinies.

I enjoyed this book, but not in the same way I enjoyed Miss Mole. There is not much action in the book, it is mostly a series of conversations between the characters along with reflections of the characters. I tended to pick this up in the evening when I was tired and it was difficult to become absorbed in this book in a way I would have wished to. Another obstacle was keeping track of the 8 offspring of the Frasers and Blacketts. I think it is simply a case of being not quite the right book for the moment for me. That is not the say I didn't like it or that it's not a good book......it was a difficult read for me.

One particular incident that I found so interesting and wanted to share was when Mr Blackett returned from his travels and his family had gone out for the day. It seemed that there was only one key and of course Mrs Blackett had it, leaving Mr Blackett to sit on the sidewalk and wait for her return. I found it so intriguing that a family would only have one key to their home.

On a personal note, my Dad is coming from Florida for a visit so I don't think I'll be posting the rest of the week.


Danielle said...

I don't think I have come across any books by E.H. Young. I will have to look for Miss Mole. Sometimes nice quiet reads are good. However, if they are too slow, sometimes I also get impatient (maybe that's what happened to me with The Shuttle?).

BooksPlease said...

I've not come across any books by E H Young either. I often find it hard to keep track of characters when there are a lot, especially when it takes a long time to read the book.

Great review -it sounds an interesting book, even if you thought it was a difficult read.

Enjoy your Dad's visit.

Nan said...

Maybe the one key is because the women so rarely left the house without the husbands? Very, very nice writing, Tara. Have a wonderful time with your dad.

Jodie Robson said...

I never go out without my husband (he's the driver) so when the train he'd dropped me off for was cancelled and I came home in a taxi I had to sit in the greenhouse for an hour (good thing I had a book..)

I like E.H. Young, I've read Miss Mole and Jenny Wren - she had a rather "unconventional" lifestyle!

Cath said...

An author I'd never heard of... well now I have thanks to you. An excellent review. Don't you think this could easily be a Persephone rather than a Virago?

Tara said...

Danielle, I agree - sometimes I like a quiet read - I just think the timing was off for me on this one. Also, the fact that I kept reading small bits at a time didn't help matters.

Booksplease, yes, it was an interesting read, I particularly found the Blackett's relationship fascinating. The wife's feelings were so intense. I may decide to read it again later - I read that it has been described as her 'most mature' work.

Nan, Thanks so much Nan. Absolutely - the women were virtually always at home - not that I mind being at home a lot - but it's my choice.

Geranium Cat, Oh, no! I'm glad you had a book when you were stranded - that does make things like that much nicer. E.H. Young did have a very interesting life, as you said - I have read about her - it certainly puts her feelings about marriage into perspective.

Cath, thank you. I agree, this is the sort of thing Persephone would publish.

Lotus Reads said...

What lovely reviews you write Tara and how nicely you introduce the characters, I already feel quite fond of the Blackett and Fraser families. If I can get this book on audio I would be tempted to listen to it.

Enjoy your father's visit!

Cornflower said...

I must move Miss Mole higher up the pile!

Carrie K said...

It sounds like a nice character study. One key, eh? Times have changed.

Have fun with your Dad!

Nan said...

Oh and I meant to say, we don't even have a house key. Well, we might, but we never use it. :<)

Tara said...

Lotus, that is really, really kind of you to say, Thank You. Unfortunately, I would doubt the book is available on audio - I think it's probably out of print, but I agree, it would be a good one to listen to.

Karen, I'd love to hear your thoughts on Miss Mole.

Carrie, thanks!

StuckInABook said...

MUST read some EH Young. Both the ones you mention sound great - but I've only got 'William' on my shelves and should probably try that one first. Silly question - EH Young: man or woman?!

Tara said...

Hi Simon - I agree, you should try some E.H. Young, I think you would really like her. And E.H. Young is Emily Hilda Young who seems to have had a very interesting life. She lived with her lover and his wife!

mary said...

I've just finished it so it's fresh in my mind, Tara. But there were two keys - Mr Blackett had left his in his stud box as Bertha was well aware. Page 236!