Together in Spirit

An online reading group ('TIS a reading group!) to bring together friends, and friends of friends, who aren't able to be in a conventional reading group due to constraints of time or geography.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Rosamund Lehmann

Having taken quite a while to get into the flow of this book, I was surprised to find that I was keen to follow the story to the end. Parts of it were quite trying; those of Sybil's conversations with Rebecca. She was the main character and so had to be described in detail, but I found that making so much of it by way of her own conversations with a ten year old, it became rather tiresome and unrealististic. It certainly made her very self-obsessed and, (Rebecca notes), boastful. As the story unfolds, she is shown to be autocratic and manipulative.Tilly says that in her first marriage, whatever she said was right and in all her conversations, there is no room for discussion.

The was a strong nature versus nurture theme and it is difficult to say other than that both played a part. The lack of maturity shown by Sybil in the treatment of Ianthe as a baby, the strong will and self obsession is not that uncommon but can only have a lasting effect on the child's behaviour and emotional development. If the descriptions of Ianthe's treatment at the hands of her father is true, (and Sybil by her own statements only ever tells the truth), it is not surprising that Ianthe was a mess. I found the comments by the doctor about Cherry's future mental state rather unconvincing, even though she was abandoned as a baby also, which bodes ill. Sybil manages not to make a mess of Maisie and Malcolm, so may have been good for her too.

Harry has the last laugh. Though suffering from the D.T.'s, he manages at the end to outwit Sybil. He has survived by resorting to alcohol and remaining an observer and finally escaped by dying. Rebecca, though. Are we to feel that this strong personality will haunt and manipulate her now?