Monday, 19 October 2009

Fenny (Cooper) 264, and The New house 263.

Fenny by Lettice Cooper is a much longer read than any of the other books I've read recently for the VVV. My reviews may slow down somewhat as most of the ones I have on my TBRBC for this challenge are pretty long and/or have much smaller type! However, it was a story which I enjoyed and which I found well-written.

I chose this title when I was looking through Virago Modern Classics on ebay because I have a friend called Fenny. My friend is short for Fenella, however, the Fenny of this novel is Ellen Fenwick. A governess by profession, she is given the pet name of "Fenny".

Ellen, as she is referred to throughout the book, has the chance to go to Italy after her mother's death to teach as a governess. Previously she taught at the local high school and lived at home; the fairly average life of a spinster in the 1930s. However, the trip to Italy completely changes her life and her outlook; she falls in love and is brokenhearted, she lives under the rule of fascism. It follows Ellen's experiences first with the family that she goes over to Italy with, then with the family down the road, then in a prison camp, and finally living in a house of her own with a boy who she rescued after the war. I loved reading about Ellen's life, it was the sort of saga/fictional biography that is perfect for an Autumn weekend, and I didn't mind too much that it was set in Italy, even though I tend to prefer books set in England because I can imagine them better.

Writing this review I have just realised that I have already read the other Lettice Cooper VMC which is The new house and published by Persephone books. This is a little sad as I was looking forward to encountering her again. I read The new house earlier this year (although not in a Persephone edition) and loved it. It is very different from Fenny, set entirely in England and over the course of one day as opposed to a period of thirty years and involves a whole family rather than a single central character. On this day, the family home is left; Rhoda and her mother are moving into a smaller home, and Delia is about to get married. Maurice, the brother reflects (or tries not to) on his marriage.

If you're interested in finding out more about Lettice Cooper, there is an interesting obituary here.

Just one VMC cover for each of those; I own this copy of Fenny. And what to do about the new House - would I want it in a Persephone or Virago edition?


  1. Oh, I love Lettice Cooper! I found Fenny in a free book store in Baltimore and picked it up because of the green cover. Her life of quiet denial and small pleasures made me sad, though it was beautifully done.

    I picked up The New House somewhere I can't remember, and enjoyed it even more. I'm so glad that Rhoda found a bit of freedom. I was going through some struggles of my own at that point, and though I don't remember too many details of the book I know I thought it really captured the tensions between freedom, love, and family.

  2. Thanks for popping in Rhiannon. Lettice Cooper is definitely a good find as she does write so beautifully about issues.