This is Judith Earle's story - her solitary childhood spent in the seclusion of her riverside house, her awkward, intense experiences at Cambridge rounded with passion and disillusionment, and her travels abroad with her elegant, socialite mother. Above all, this novel is about Judith's consuming relationship with the Fyfe family, who each fall in love with Judith, transforming her young womanhood.
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I should have liked this book much better in my teens when I might have had more patience with the main character. She really is quite tiresome (which, of course, she is not meant to be). Everything circles around herself, and only what she can't have seems important to her. She takes no real interest in others - at least not if they are "common" - with the exception of the two people she is obsessed by and perhaps in love with. In a way, you must pity Judith as well. She has been brought up by a mother who seems to be indifferent to her as a person. When Judith is deeply unhappy, all her mother can do for her is to go shopping. New outfits are the best comfort she can think of - and Judith seems to be grateful. No wonder, perhaps, that she is emotionally confused. The novel is beautifully written and Jenny Agutter's performance is excellent. I appreciate that she does not try to act, giving different voices to the characters. Some narrators do - and the result is seldom a success.
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I first read this novel when I was fifteen and loved it. It expressed for me so accurately the intensity and self absorption of adolescence, the agony and the ecstasy . Now , in old age , oh dear, there is little to admire in the characters. Entitled , selfish , unhappy and unkind to each other.
I still love Rosamond Lehmann’s description of the garden....