Sisters by a river is Comyns' first novel, and is a fictionalised account of her own childhood. I thought it was a lovely little book which gives an insight into Comyns' life. It is set in Bideford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire, but I am not sure how accurate it is. It's not exactly a joined up read, rather a series of episodes or sketches under wonderful chapter headings such as "Rooted to the ground", "It wasn't nice in the dressing room" and "The rolly polly field", which come together to give us a fabulous depiction of Comyns and her family.
What is fascinating about the book is the use of language.
"They advertised in the Times for a strong disiplarian"
"[she] talked with a high floating voice, leaving her sentances half finished and or with a wave of her hand she would add "and so forth" which was a favourate expression"
The blurb on the back says that "Barbara Comyns's first novel is told through the eyes (and spelling) of a young girl". I loved the feel that this gave to the book, but according to the introduction, this was not necessarily intentional. Comyns had notoriously erratic spelling, and was angry when this was not corrected in the first edition of the book (apparently the publishers added more spelling mistakes to enhance its charm). After this she always asked her husband to correct her manuscripts.
The copy I read was borrowed from the public library and was the 2000 edition, with an introduction by Celia Brayfield. Virago originally published this title in 1985 and it had first been published by Eyre and Spottiswode in 1947.
I loved it and have just reserved Skin chairs and Who was changed and Who was dead at the library. I think one of the best ways of going about this challenge is to tackle each author at a time. I may change my mind.