Tuesday, 23 August 2011
The harsh voice (Rebecca West)
It's been a bit of a while since I've posted - but do not fear, I am determined to continue my quest to read all of the Virago Modern Classics. My husband is building me shelves at the moment to house my collection in all their glory, and I can't wait to display them again after having them piled up in the spare room since we moved :(
I do have my VMC TBR handy, and so I picked off The harsh voice by Rebecca West, mainly because I am feeling guilty about this book as I accidentally bought it twice. I've passed on the extra copy to a friend who is more keen on Rebecca West than I am, but I still felt I should read it sooner rather than later, given that I had spent twice the amount of money on it!
The harsh voice is actually 4 novellas, mostly with some connection to America, described in the blurb as exploring "the lives and relationships of rich women and men who are ruled by "the harsh voice we hear when money talks, or hate"".
I found the first story, "Life Sentence" in the book distinctly disquieting. It opens with a couple who are about to be married, only the groom announces two days beforehand that he does not want to go through with it. His future wife talks him into it since he has said that he will go ahead if she desires; but the reader feels unsettled and knows that nothing good could possibly come of that situation, particularly given the title of the story. Their marriage seems to start off happily but it is definitely fated, and the woman's obsession with money leads quickly to its breakdown. It did not make happy reading on the 3rd week anniversary of my wedding day.
In another, "The salt of the earth", the character Alice has an opinion on how to change everyone (but herself) for the better, which leads her husband to relieve everyone by poisoning her nighttime drink.
The book was distinctly unsettling and certainly not a feel-good read. I suppose it is in the grain of all of the Rebecca West novels that I have read that they are not terribly happy.
You can find a fuller review of the book here, on the Pages Turned blog. And, I also found this review by Edith Wharton in 1935 - I thought that was fascinating, one VMC lady's take on another.
This book has just been published once as a VMC with an original green cover.