Sunday, 6 February 2011
Illyrian Spring (Bridge) 348
From the unenjoyable to the wonderful; it pleased me to spend some of the weekend reading Illyrian Spring after battling through more Edith Wharton last week. I had been looking forward to coming to this book for sometime since it is one of those VMCs that everyone has read it raves about it. I had decided that I would not read it until I got a copy for myself (often they retail at £20+ on Amazon), and thanks to Rachel mentioning that there were a couple of reasonably priced copies when she wrote about it as part of Virago Reading Week (both now sadly gone), I managed to pick up one for only £5.80. The item was described as in "good" condition, but the book that turned up far exceeded my expectations - apart from one spine crease it is in excellent condition so I am very pleased to have it for my collection.
I didn't know anything about the title when I sat down to read it; a colleague of mine has had it ordered up to one of the reading rooms where I work where she is slowly savouring her way through it, but despite seeing it almost every day I had resisted even reading the blurb on the back. For me, the book felt a little like An enchanted April or A room with a view; I could imagine it being made into a lovely film that full of the wonderful atmosphere that Ann Bridge evokes in the book.
It's a novel of escape. The principal character Grace, Lady Kilmichael, is frustrated by her family and her life and goes off to Dalmatia to paint, take some time out and perhaps find herself. There, she meets a young man, Nicholas, also a painter, and also struggling to find his place amid familial expectations. An unlikely friendship forms and the time they spend together enables them to come to terms with their lives.
For me, it wasn't so much the story that I enjoyed, but the wonderful setting and easy writing enabled me to gulp the book down in an afternoon. I shall lend it to my colleague so that she can take it home and enjoy it in a more leisurely fashion than snatched moments at work!
It's just been published the once by Virago, with an original green cover, and now having read it, I want to add my voice to the masses who want them to bring it out again. I really think that there would be a market for a modern cover edition of this book, it would make a lovely summer read (or equally a winter read where one wants to think of warmer climes)
Ann Bridge's first novel, Peking Picnic, is also a VMC, and I have to confess to ordering myself a copy from Amazon to indulge in. I hope it will prove as enjoyable; if it looks like it will do, then I may suffer another couple of Edith Wharton's first...