Monday, 21 February 2011
A wreath for the enemy (Frankau)
I was spurred onto read this Frankau when a reader called Harriet visited this blog and commented on one of my other Frankau posts, The Willow Cabin (the other being The Winged Horse, which I did not enjoy so much) which reminded me that I still had another volume of hers to go.
A "coming of age" novel, the book, which falls into three sections, centres around the character of Penelope Wells. A precocious child, she lives in a hotel in the French Riviera with her parents. One summer she meets the far more conventional Bradley children; whilst the children get on well, the Bradley parents find the hotel disreputable and the friendship sadly ends. But the childhood encounters and an episode at the end of their friendship proves strongly influential on the lives of both Penelope, and Don Bradley. Penelope seeks order as an adult, and Don rebels against his family values, and it is this which is explored in the other two sections of the book. The middle section is told through the eyes of Don, as he develops a friendship with a man called Crusoe, involved in the horse-racing scene, and the final section returns to Penelope.
Perhaps it wasn't quite as captivating as some of the other "coming of age" VMC novels, I capture the castle or The constant nymph, for example, but I did find it very absorbing and different, and not at all dated (which, although I hate to say it about a range branded as "classics" can sometime be the case), and according to the introduction by Rafaella Barker, it is strongly autobiographical.
It's just been published once by Virago with an original green cover, but bizarrely appears in my VMC master-list with two numbers - I can't quite explain this. I love the cover image and would be glad to see the Frankau books (which I have now read all of, or at least the VMC ones - she wrote 33 in total) back in print. I think however that The Willow Cabin remains my favourite of the three.
*edit* the second number is a mistake - 272 which I previously mentioned on this post actually belongs to Willa Cather - One of ours