Monday, October 13, 2014

The Ladies of Lyndon by Margaret Kennedy

"Lyndon, architectural and complacent, gleamed whitely amid the sombre green of ilex and cedar. Its classical facade stretched in ample wings to east and west. The grounds, originally laid out by the famous 'Capability Brown', and improved upon by successive generations of landscape gardeners, were admirably in keeping with the dwelling house they guarded."

Mrs Varden Cocks strongly believed that daughters must be married off young before they could form their own opinions and so after quenching a youthful romance with her cousin, Gerald, wastes no time in organising a suitable match for her daughter, Agatha.

At the tender age of eighteen Agatha finds herself the wife of Sir John Clewer and the new mistress of Lyndon.

The other ladies of Lyndon are John's stepmother Marian, the dowager Lady Clewer, and Lois,her daughter from her first marriage,  and John's half-sister, Cynthia, still in her early teens but already a mercenary little madam.

There are the men in their lives - cousin Gerald reawakening memories in Agatha and creating dissatisfaction in her marriage - Hubert, determined on marrying Lois - wealthy but vulgar profiteer Sir Thomas Bragge , Marian's cousin.

And then there is James, John's younger brother. James is an embarrassment to the family - considered to be mentally defective, a bit queer - if she had a choice one feels Marian would keep him locked in the attic. 
James is different - he scorns the life of leisure of the Edwardian privileged upper class. A talented artist he is determined to find satisfaction through his work and to marry as he will.

I would call The Ladies of Lyndon a domestic and social comedy. The plot is minimal and it's the interrelationships, the actions and dialogue between the characters that brings the pre and post-war eras to life. The tone was lighthearted enough to keep me from being emotionally involved with any one of them which is what I prefer right now.

I loved the humour which was consistent all the way through. Sometimes a phrase, a choice of word - a gentle humour with a slight edge at times but never bitter or biting like some other 1920's authors I've read. 

I loved it! I know it was Margaret Kennedy's first novel and she no doubt goes on to produce many that are considered better than this one but I haven't read them and so ave nothing to compare it with. I'm glad to have started at the beginning and look forward to reading more of her work. 
Thanks Jane! Always exciting to find a new author with a long list of titles waiting to be read.

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