A Heritage and Its History tells the story of 69-year-old Sir Edwin Challoner and his extended family. Unmarried, and with no direct issue, Challoner’s closest relation, and business associate, is his younger brother, Hamish. When Hamish dies of a heart condition, his son Simon prepares to take over as head of the house, as everyone assumes that Sir Edwin will also die in a matter of months. However, Sir Edwin surprises everyone by announcing his marriage to Rhoda, his neighbour, also more than 40 years his junior....
Eleanor and Fulbert Sullivan live, with their nine children ranging from nursery to university age, in a huge country house belonging to Fulbert's parents, Sir Jesse and Lady Regan. Sir Jesse sends Fulbert, his only son, on a business mission to South America. News comes of Fulbert's death, and his executor, Ridley Cranmer, plans an impulsive marriage to Eleanor. But is Fulbert really dead? And what is the mystery surrounding the parentage of the three strange Marlowes living in genteel penury
At the centre of this novel stands Harriet Haslam, the epitome of the maternal power figure, whose genuine but overpowering love dominates the novel and whose self-knowledge drives her into insanity. Even after her death Harriet continues to dominate. Surrounding this central figure are a host of marvelously realised characters - Sir Geoffrey Haslam, Harriet’s husband, an innocent self-deluder; Dominic Spong, a hypocrite whose platitudes do not quite conceal his powerful self-interest
I cannot be parted longer from my sons.... I am coming back to my home' Nine years after her divorce from Cassius Clare, Catherine decides to re-enter his life. Her decision causes a dramatic upheaval in the Clare family and its implications are analysed and redefined, not only in the drawing-room, but in the children's nursery and the servants' quarters. At first, Flavia, Cassius's second wife, feels resentment, fearing that she may be usurped.
The Last and the First was Ivy Compton-Burnett's final novel. In it she deals with her familiar themes - tyranny, power, and corruption. Although the novel was unfinished at the time of her death, in 1969, it combines the brilliant wit and incisive insight into human relationships that make her one of the most original novelists in English literature.
The Donne family’s move to the country is inspired by a wish to be close to their cousins, who are to be their nearest neighbours. It proves too close for comfort, however. For a secret switching of wills causes the most genteel pursuit of self-interest to threaten good relations and even good manners.... Ivy Compton-Burnett employs her sharp ear for comedy and celebrated powers of dialogue to spectacular effect. She reveals a devastating microcosm of human society, in which the elders are by no means always the betters, in which no character is totally scrupulous, but none without their appeal.
"Horrifically bad performance destroys a very good"
Sefton and his sister, Clemence, are dispatched to separate boarding schools. Their father's second marriage, their mother's economies, provide perfect opportunities for mockery, and home becomes a source of shame. More wretched is their mother's insistence that they excel. Their desperate means to please her incite adult opprobrium, but how did the children learn to deceive? Here staccato dialogue, brittle aphorisms and an excoriating wit are used to unparalleled and subversive effect ruthlessly to expose the wounds beneath the surface of family life.
Edwin Muir wrote of Ivy Compton-Burnett in the Observer: 'Her literary abilities have been abundantly acknowledged by the majority of her literary contemporaries. Her intense individuality has removed her from the possibility of rivalry... She takes as her theme the tyrannies and internecine battles of English family life in leisured well-conducted country houses. To Miss Compton-Burnett the family conflict is intimate, unrelenting, very often indecisive and fought out mainly in conversation...
The first edition of Dolores was published in 1911. It sold well, and was promptly forgotten. Now that her career of sixty years is ended, and her long achievement more and more acclaimed, Dolores, standing at that remote beginning, is curiously reborn.