January 19, 2011

The Tortoise and the Hare - Elizabeth Jenkins

My head cold continues and therefore so does the comfort reading - although my latest choice was a little heartbreaking to be put entirely into the comfort read category!

I have had The Tortoise and the Hare on my shelf for quite a while now after reading positive and interesting reviews from dovegreyreader, Book Snob, A Few Of My Favourite Books and others.

I echo what some others have commented on in relation to the modern cover of this book shown in my post - it is probably not entirely appropriate for or reflective of the rather serious content written inside. Having said that, I do quite like it and it gave me a little bit of light relief to be able to gaze at it from time to time when the reading got a little heavy going.

The Tortoise and The Hare was first published in 1954 and tells the story of an upper middle class English marriage in the period following World War 2. Evelyn Gresham and his wife, Imogen, have been married for about 12 years when the novel begins and they have an 11 year old son (mini Evelyn in training) who is about to go off to boarding school. The family have a comfortable home in the countryside which Evelyn commutes to London from in order to fulfill his role as a successful barrister. As the novel begins Imogen introduces her husband;

He was everything Imogen admired;not only had he all the qualities she instinctively looked for in a man who was to take the direction of her life, but he had them in an unusual degree. When at twenty-seven, she had met him at forty-one, even handsomer if less interesting than he was now, she had been fascinated by his appearance, then riveted by the attraction of his personality and then filled with delight at his passion for herself, but she had never entirely lost her head about him: held back, perhaps, by the fact that he never wished it. Sympathy he wanted, usefulness, complete devotion, but not infatuation.

We see quite clearly through the book what it is that Evelyn expects, and demands, from his wife - and we see her trying to give that to him, no matter what it does to her sense of self which is virtually unexplored in the tight cage she is living in in the marriage.

Living next door to the Gresham's is the "elderly" Blanche Silcox, a 50 year old single woman with significant money and property to her name. Evelyn develops a friendship with her - a friendship that seems to offer him everything that Imogen can't - and everything she had no idea he wanted in the first place.

The novel follows the progress of the relationship between Evelyn and Blanche and the devastating, and yet hopefully not all destroying, impact it has on Imogen.

This was a brilliantly paced and told story - I am in complete awe of the skill Jenkins has shown in telling this tale which she has described as autobiographical "not in fact, but in feeling".


Nadia said...

This book sounds like a must read! I'll definitely be adding it to my TBR list. I love the cover and from what you wrote, I'm sure I'll love the book. Cheers!

Audrey said...

This was one of my favorite books last year. The comment about it being autobiographical in feeling is fascinating...I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Lisa@ButteryBooks said...

I have not heard of this book...thanks for introducing it to me. It sounds like a great read!

Karen said...

Hi Nadia - I think it is a very special book - hope you enjoy it!

Hi Audrey - I think it will go very close to be one of my favourites from this year!

Hi Lisa - I had not heard of it before I entered the blogging world either!

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I have this book and have been meaning to get to it - something about the reviews and the storyline have just really sucked me in.

Karen said...

Hi Coffee - It really is one you should experience for yourself - hope you enjoy it!

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