Thursday, 27 August 2009

The vet's daughter (Comyns) 43

I read The vet's daughter last week and really enjoyed reading it; if you haven't read any Comyns books before then this might be a good place to start as it is slightly less surreal than Who was changed and who was dead and it doesn't have the potentially frustrating mispellings of Sisters by a river.

I should qualify my "enjoyment" of the novel however - Comyns certainly doesn't write feel-good fiction. The Vet's daughter is Alice Rowland, and her father, the vet, is somewhat tyrannical and lacking in compassion. At the start of the book Alice's mother is very ill, and eventually dies - it is through this period that we really acquire a dislike for the vet. He then acquires a new wife, and Alice is packed off to become a lady's companion to the elderly Mrs Peebles. At last Alice acquires some freedom and is able to indulge in some flirtation and go out with boys. She then discovers that she has the ability to "levitate" (here the surrealist element appears) - raise her body off the ground through the power of the mind. When her father hears about this, he summons her home, to try to exploit this power...with fatal consequences.

As usual there is wonderful writing from Comyns, in particular the opening sentence:
"A man with small eyes and a ginger moustache came and spoke to me when I was thinking of something else. Together we walked down a street that was lined with privet hedges.". I think Comyns seems to be the master of the opening sentence that makes one want to read on.

Two VMC covers, and then as a bonus, the third is the rather intriguing Dial Press edition. I own the first VMC edition, which has a wonderful introduction by Comyns.

1 comment:

  1. I have only read one Comyns so far -Our Spoons Come from Woolworths- but look forward to reading the others I own and seeking out the remainder.