Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Unlit lamp (Radclyffe Hall) 42

I've read two Radclyffe Hall novels for this challenge, but this third one, The unlit lamp (kindly lent to me by Simon from Stuck-in-a-book) is the one that I have enjoyed the most. Despite having similarly bleak themes to The well of loneliness, there was quite a lot of humour at least in the early part of the the book and I found the story interesting.

Set in the seaside town of Seabourne, the Unlit Lamp tells the story of two sisters, Joan and Millie, but focussing primarily on Joan, the elder. They live with their extremely conventional parents, Mr and Mrs Ogden; Mrs Ogden is quite bitter about married life but this leads to some of the entertaining and humourous scenes in the book. Joan and Millie are taught by Elizabeth, their governess - the Ogdens don't place much value on education for women. Joan and Elizabeth develop a close friendship, which develops lesbian overtones (that never actually really materialise), but this provokes strong jealousy in Mrs Ogden who wants to keep her elder daughter close to her. Joan has the chance of escape through Elizabeth, hoping to study medicine at Cambridge and then move to London to live in a flat with her friend, but she has to give up the dream when her father suffers ill-health and dies. She tries to help Millie escape from the family, but even she has to return home when she falls ill. Joan is effectively stuck living with Mrs Ogden, and cannot even dream of going to live with Elizabeth as she has turned her back on her affectation (love?) for Joan and got married.

The book develops into a tragedy of lost opportunity and family pressures which is quite far away from the light beginning where family life was just an irritant.

It's just been published once by Virago with an original green cover.