Tuesday, October 16, 2007
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.