Wednesday 15 August 2012

Five From the Archive (no.6)

This week I wanted my Five From The Archive (where I revisit old reviews from my blog - it's been a while, so some of you might not know about it!) to be novels about families.  Obviously that encompasses many, many novels - so I decided to be a little more specific, and insist that they have a relative of some sort in the title.  Makes it more fun to pick them!  Here are my five - as always, let me know which you'd suggest...

Five... Books about Family

1.) Sisters By A River (1947) by Barbara Comyns

In short: The surreal account of Barbara Comyns' childhood by the Avon in Warwickshire, paving the way for her later, equally surreal, novels.

From the review: "Tales of ugly dresses and bad haircuts are told in the same captivating, undemonstrative style as those of Grannie dying and Father throwing a beehive over Mother. If this motley assortment of remembrances were made-up... well, I don't think they could have been. Such a bizarre childhood, so of its time, and yet utterly fascinating."

2.) Travels With My Aunt (1969) by Graham Greene

In short: Meeting his Aunt Augusta at his mother's funeral, Henry is caught up in her bizarre (and often illegal) cavorting around the globe.

From the review: "But the characters have the same indomitable spirit, eccentric manner, and amusingly unpredictable speech. The success of Greene's novel, for me, is through character - through Augusta and Henry's conversations, where two wholly different characters meet and travel together."

3.) Parents and Children (1941) by Ivy Compton-Burnett

In short: A typically Ivy Compton-Burnett novel - sprawling family, endless brilliant dialogue, and occasional doses of rather surprising action.

From the review: "Life-changing events are encompassed by lengthy, facetious discussions - gently vicious and cruelly precise, always picking up on the things said by others. Calmness permeates even the most emotional responses, and ICB's writing is always astonishing in its use of dialogue."

4.) My Cousin Rachel (1951) by Daphne du Maurier

In short: Philip's cousin Ambrose goes to Italy, marries Rachel, and (er, spoiler) dies - leaving Philip, and the reader, in doubt regarding Rachel's culpability or innocence...

From the review: "The novel has a lot in common with Rebecca - and not just the setting. The same intrigue, power, and issues about what is left unspoken in relationships. [...] My Cousin Rachel is brilliantly successful in the sense that I have never left a novel so uncertain as to a character's guilt or lack of it - and either interpretation seems quite valid."

5.) Brother of the More Famous Jack (1982) by Barbara Trapido

In short: Katherine is an ingenuous 18 year old when she meets the Goldman family, but living alongside this enchanting (but bewildering) assortment of people - most of whose names begin with J - helps propel her into adulthood.

From the review: "Katherine herself it is difficult not to like, if only for this: 'I reverted, as I do in moments of crisis, to rereading Emma, with cotton wool in my ears.'"

Over to you!


  1. I've missed your earlier Five from the Archive posts. I think it's a good idea and might have a go at something like it myself - my blog's been going for over five years now.

    Here are my five on families - and there are just five that I've read during the five years!

    The Inspector's Daughter by Alanna Knight
    The Sixth Wife by Suzannah Dunn
    Sons and Lovers by D H Lawrence
    The Widow's Tale by Mick Jackson

    and last but by no means least - My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier. Quote from my post - 'I was never quite sure what was real and what to believe.'

    1. Simon, just thought I'd say I've now done a post on historical fiction from my blog over the last five years.

    2. I've not read any of those - except for the one we both chose - so thank you, Margaret! It's amazing quite how many books have a relative in the title. There's even The Rector's Daughter, The Vicar's Daughter, and The Clergyman's Daughter, should I wish to read a triad! (Mayor, Young, and Orwell respectively.)

  2. My suggestion is 'Daughters of the House' by Michele Roberts, about cousins growing up in France after the war and the secrets they uncover.

    1. I love a suggestion for a book that I already own!

  3. I don't think I could better your list, with the exception of ICB, who is on the Wish List. So can I substitute a childhood favourite - Auntie Robbo, by Ann Scott-Moncrieff, about an exceedingly idiosyncratic old lady who travels to the Scottish Highlands with her nephew and a group of street urchins, aboard a ramshackle horse-drawn caravan. It is quite, quite wonderful, very, very funny, and somewhat anarchic, as Auntie Robbo rebels against all forms of authority, upsets everyone she meets, and creates chaos everywhere she goes.

    1. Oo, that sounds wonderful, Christine - I do love an anarchic aunt in a book...

  4. The Family from One End Street by Eve Garnett. A favourite childhood read, that has held up into adulthood.

    1. Oh, yes, a lovely book - although I haven't read it since I was small.

  5. I have been thinking about reading Travel with my Aunt recently. It keeps popping up now and then on blogs and bookstores. I think its time I read it!
    I am also fairly intrigued by My Cousin Rachel - was not that impressed by anything else by DDM but this seems promising.

    1. It's the only Greene I've read, but I loved it!
      Have you read Rebecca? I think it's wonderful, but if you don't like it then I probably wouldn't bother with My Cousin Rachel.

  6. Couldn't call any immediately to mind yesterday, but Aunts Aren't Gentlemen by Wodehouse comes to mind, and A Daughter's a Daughter by Agatha Christie writing as Mary Westmacott (which I read so long ago I'm embarrassed to say I don't remember the plot), last but not least - Little Britches:Father and I Were Ranchers by Ralph Moody. (children's book)

    1. Aunts Aren't Gentleman was my no.6! I decided not to duplicate relatives, otherwise it would have been on there.

      I've never tried AC as Mary Westmacott - mostly because Colin didn't like them, but that really shouldn't be my benchmark, given how our tastes differ....


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