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Jenmcd

The Tortoise and the Hare

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Evelyn Gresham is a distinguished barrister in his early fifties with a seemingly perfect life - a beautiful home, a son who adores him and an attractive, devoted younger wife, Imogen. It soon becomes clear that there is something lacking in the marriage but both parties seem to have come to terms with this. Imogen's world falls apart as her husband begins an affair with their nearest neighbour, Blanche Silcox, a tweedy, plain fiftiesh woman in every way her opposite.

 

This is a novel very much of its time (early 1950's) as the attitudes and reactions of both husband and wife to the affair are so different from what they would be today. I found it quite hard to get past this as I was reading. However it is very nicely written and there are lovely things in it, especially Imogen's relationship with her son's friend who is neglected by his own parents.

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It is well , but not lightly, written. I found myself having to re-read sentences. I also found the omniscient narrator style curious, which is odd because practically all the books I read in my younger days were written in that way.

 

Jenkins made you feel for the poor young wife who was powerless to stop her husband from falling for the late -middle aged frump. Her descriptions of the countryside were exquisite, too, perhaps paralleling the beauty of the passive wife who could not prevent the inevitable.

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I was surprised how dated this book seemed, although it belongs to the genre which I have loved in the past ie Rosamund Lehmann and Elizabeth Bowen - both friends of the author, Elizabeth Jenkins. But it is dated in the way that Jenmcd points out - we handle relationships differently today and we are much more demanding of them. The description of the crumbling marriage was very compelling and the characterisation was spot on. There is an introduction to the edition I read (Virago Modern Classics) by Hilary Mantel which is acute and informative, likewise the end note by Carmen Cahill, the editor. This is not a book I would have chosen myself, it was given to me as a birthday present, but I thoroughly recommend it : it has stayed in my memory since reading : it is indeed a modern classic.

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I was surprised how dated this book seemed, although it belongs to the genre which I have loved in the past ie Rosamund Lehmann and Elizabeth Bowen - both friends of the author, Elizabeth Jenkins. ........

 

I'll get a copy of this as belatedly I've been reading both Lehmann and Elizabeth Bowen as well as the slightly later Elizabeth Taylor.

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