Monday, 24 May 2010

Open the door! (Carswell) 201

Open the door is a fantastic novel by Catherine Carswell which relates the story of Joanna Bannerman, a young woman seeking the freedom that has been denied to her by her religious upbringing. The story starts with her as a young girl - we meet her scatterbrained mother and siblings, and see how their haphazard, but otherwise reasonably normal life changes on the death of her father as Juley (the mother) becomes increasingly involved in evangelical circles. As Joanna grows up, the relationship with her mother becomes somewhat strained due to Joanna's apparent lack of spirituality. Joanna's world expands considerably when she attends Italian lessons and ends up getting married and moving to Florence. But this was not straightforward; Joanna has already lost the first man that she was engaged to when he decided that he was not in love with her - this loss continues to haunt Joanna. Her time in Florence is short-lived when she is suddenly widowed, and we follow her back to Glasgow where attends the Glasgow School of Art which really starts to broaden her horizons. She still seeks love, and this time embarking on an affair with a married man, much to Juley's horrow. I found it fascinating reading as I wasn't quite sure what would happen next to Joanna or quite how the book would resolve itself.

Virago have just published this once, with an original green cover. Isn't the hair of the woman on the front absolutely fantastic? The painting by the way is called "Ill omen", by Frances Macdonald and comes from the Hunterian Art Gallery at Glasgow University.


  1. This soulds excellent verity - on a theme have you read Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit? That is another interesting consideration of religious and spiritual divides within families - I seem to remember enjoying it very much when I was supposed o be revising for finals.... Your review reminded me a little. I do like the front cover - so many of the Virago front covers are well chosen (especially the older ones).

    thanks for sharing and happy Monday!

  2. This sounds really good. I've read another Carswell VMC, 'The Camomile', which was wonderful, about an unconventional Frankfurt-trained music student living in Glasgow in the early '20s. Great stuff.

  3. Hannah - ues I have - I really enjoyed it, probably my favourite of the jeanette wintersons. I liked the TV adaptation too.

    JRSM - I like the sound of that, so have just ordered a copy :)

  4. I've seen that painting a few times.

    I've been looking out for a copy of The Camomile for some time and hadn't realised Carswell had another VMC.