History records that Vita Sackville West wrote The Edwardians on holiday, targeting popular success Her book was a huge hit, it was adapted for the stage, it was translated into several languages, but neither its author or its publisher saw it as having any claim to literary greatness.
They were probably right, but it is a lovely entertainment that captures a particular time and a particular class wonderfully well.
The author wrote what she knew, and at the very beginning of the book she notes thatNo character in this book is wholly fictitious If you have knowledge of her and her circle you will appreciate that and understand that she is looking back at the world that she grew up in, comparing it with the world that her mother knew and the very different world that her children knew and knowing that, while she loved it dearly, it was fatally flawed.
But it doesn t matter if you know nothing at all, because the book is such a lovely period piece.
The story opens in 1905, with Sebastian, the nineteen year old Duke of Chevron ascending to the roof of his country home to escape the guests at his mother s house party She loves society, while Sebastian isn t quite sure how he feels He is drawn to the glamour of his mother s social set, but he can t help being aware of how shallow their lives and their values really are.
His estate, Chevron, is a working estate, and Sebastian loved everything he can see and hear from his high vantage pointThe whole community of the great house was humming at its work In the stables, men were grooming horses in the shops , the carpenters plane sent the wood chips flying, the diamond of the glazier hissed on the glass in the forge, the hammer rang in the anvil, and the bellows windily sighed Sebastian heard the music and saw the vision It was a tapestry that he saw, and heard the strains of a wind orchestra It had been that way for hundreds of years, with sons following their fathers into the shops to learn a trade, and with positions within the house filled by the daughters and nieces of those already employed with staff claiming and constrained by their inheritance just as much as the family they served.
All of this is so vividly evoked, and the early chapters are rich with details of the life of the house, the party arrangements, the family, and a veritable army of servants.
One of the weekend visitors to Chevron, Leonard Antequil, didn t belong to that world but his adventurous life, including a winter spent alone in a snow hut in the Arctic Circle, and had brought him fame and made him a very desirable guest for the fashionable set.
It may not have occurred to the other guests that he was there as the result of his own of his efforts while they were there only by chance of birth or marriage Or that he thought little of them.
One night Sebastian invited him up onto the roof, and he spoke to him openly and honestly, sensing his dissatisfaction and urging him to recognise the limitations of his lifestyle and to consider breaking with traditionVery well, if you want the truth, here it is The society you live in is composed of people who are both dissolute and prudent They want to have their fun, and they want to keep their position They glitter on the surface, but underneath the surface they are stupid too stupid to recognise their own motives They know only a limited number of things about themselves that they need plenty of money, and that they must be seen in the right places, associated with the right people In spite of their efforts to turn themselves into painted images, they remain human somewhere, and must indulge in love affairs, which are sometimes artificial, and sometimes inconveniently real Whatever happens the world must be served first Sebastian is torn between his deep love of his home and his knowledge of the truth of Antequil s words.
The arguments are beautifully expressed and perfectly balanced.
Sebastian regretfully declines Antequil s invitation to accompany him on his next trip but he never forgets their conversation.
He is seduced by an older woman, a society beauty of his mother s generation when their affair is ended by an ultimatum from her husband he drifts into a shallow life as a man about time and then he draws a middle class doctor s wife into his life, and makes the mistake of inviting her to ChevronHe had tried the most fashionable society, and he had tried the middle class, and in both his plunging spirit had got stuck in the glue of convention and hypocrisy All of this says much about Sebastian s world but it isn t quite as engaging as those early chapters about life at the family estate.
Meanwhile, the world was changing.
Sebastian s sister, Viola, knew that, and she was gladFor what have our mothers thought of us, all these years said Viola that we should make a good marriage, so that they might feel that they had done their duty by us, and were rid of their responsibility with an added pride A successful daughter plus an eligible son in law Any other possibility never entered their heads that we might consult our own tastes for instance The author knew that.
The first defection at Chevron, when the head carpenter s son chooses a job in the new motor industry rather than follow his father into Chevron s shops, illustrated that beautifully.
Sebastian was caught up with his own concerns, he was unhappy, but an encounter with Leonard Antequil on the day of the coronation of George V made him realise that he could change his life.
But would he I can t say, and there are lots of details that I haven t shared.
I loved this book the prose, the conviction, the wealth of detail, the depiction of society.
That s not to say it s perfect It s a little uneven, the structure isn t strong, and much of what it has to say feels familiar.
But it does so much so well, it has such authenticity, and it is a wonderfully readable period piece.
Lo que me ha gustado Mucho disfruto de esta clase de libros no puedo evitarlo, es mi nica Dorcas debilidad Ha sido como ver la serie Downton Abbey o Upstairs Downstairs por el retrato tan magn fico de la sociedad inglesa de comienzos del siglo XX con sus deslumbrantes pero encorsetadas costumbres, un mundo de entra ables tradiciones ligadas a la mansi n de Chevron contempladas a trav s de los ojos de sus dos j venes protagonistas, los hermanos Sebasti n y Viola, sobre todo de Sebasti n futuro heredero y duque Es al mismo tiempo una novela de aprendizaje, pues lo veremos crecer y tomar decisiones respecto la vida futura que elegir n cada uno entre tantas exquisiteces que los rodea a la par que artificialidad, hipocres a y superficialidad.
Que bien ha pasado el tiempo por este libro Me ha atrapado de principio a fin queriendo saber que les deparaba la vida a los hermanos Sebasti n y Viola Este libro es un retrato de la sociedad inglesa de la poca.
Tradiciones,costumbres, lite social ,privilegios y la otra cara de la moneda perdida de libertad,conformismo Me encanto Chevron,la mansi n donde transcurre la mayor a de la trama dir a que es un personaje m s Otro plus Que un personaje femenino sea el que rompa las reglashasta aqu puedo contar Una lectura lleva a otra empiezo Orlando de virginiawoolf lo tenia esperando en las estanter as hace demasiado.
Yo no sab a que la autora y Virginia tuvieron una relaci n sentimental,y que se inspir en ella para crear al protagonista andr gino de Orlando.
Que mejor momento para empezarlo Whereas All Passion Spent had a quiet, old woman at its center, The Edwardians has a dashing, young man I m inclined to think Sebastian is a little closer to Vita s own essence, though I suppose that one is debatable Perhaps she was so annoyed with Woolf s Orlando, she decided to create her own male alter ego Both of these books by Vita are well written, so why do I stubbornly withhold that fifth star I can certainly appreciate her wit, her wisdom, her stunning prose But, the thing is, I can t quite relate to her One obvious reason is that I m poor and she was insanely rich Another is a fundamental difference our respective yearnings She wanted passion, grandeur, adventure I want constancy and the quiet contentment she seemed to fear.
Though the book has literary merit, it doesn t quite satisfy my own literary cravings Sorry, Vita I ve been aware of Sackville West for some time and, though I knew she was a writer, I thought of her mainly in relation to Virginia Woolf so I was surprised at how good The Edwardians was It s set during that short period after Queen Victoria s death and the reign of her eldest son Edward The main character is a young duke named Sebastian Of course he s inherited a life of privilege with all its ancient traditions but after he meets someone from outside his class Sebastian begins to question his life The Edwardians threw off some of the staid values of Victoria s morals and, at least the upper classes, became downright licentious or was it that the stopped trying to hide it Sackville West also explores women s issue through the eyes of Sebastian s mother and sister and through the eyes of his lovers Sackville West wasn t just a hanger on to the Bloomsbury group but an active talent.
Thank you to the publisher for providing an advance reader copy.
Me hubiese gustado que los criados y la relaci n con sus se ores hubiese tenido m s protagonismo puesto que han sido las partes que se desarrollaban en la residencia campestre las que m s me gustaban.
En cualquier caso, es un buen acercamiento a la alta sociedad de una poca que desapareci para siempre.
My first ever Vita Sackville West book and it wont be my last I have another lined up for reading This earns a place in my all tme favorites, a novel that peers into the lives of the old aristocrats known as The Edwardians Because V.
Sackville West came from this sort of background I felt like I was getting an inside look into this world ruled by class,society,the fashionable, the haughty and the snobbish of this wonderful era I absolutely love this book and I recommend it to everyone who is a fan of Downton Abbey and the like.
Apparently this book was the author s most popular book One wonders why There s almost no story to speak of and the psychological musings are toe curling, probably because the author chooses to reverse the show don t tell principle In many instances she does both first tell, then show On the other hand, this heavy handedness makes the book palatable as a parody.