Saturday, 12 January 2019

Guard Your Daughters

I’d kind of dropped out of the loop a bit with Persephone books but Diana Tutton’s Guard Your Daughters was prominently displayed in the Cambridge Heffers just before Christmas so I bought a copy and raced through it in a couple of days.

This post-war novel features one of those bohemian, female-centred households consisting of five sisters and narrated by nineteen year old Morgan who has something of the charisma of Cassandra from I Capture the Castle. I loved the rambling old house and the episode where the sisters are initially reluctant to play French cricket in the damp garden with a soggy ball but get completely involved and finish the game in high spirits.  

I liked the daughter Cressida who cares how things look and the elder married sister Pandora who is unafraid to challenge her parents. When her father objects to a young man visiting because it upsets their mother (who is clearly not well) she calmly asks ‘Are we a convent father?’
 A review I read somewhere complains that the sisters call each other ‘Darling’ too much but those of us who have read a lot of Nancy Mitford and all five volumes of The Cazalets are well used to that! Just when you think the novel is getting a little twee towards the end the dark undercurrent resurfaces and although the attitudes towards mental health would now be questionable it is sympathetically written. Highly recommended.
I’m also ploughing through Violet Powell’s leaden biography of E M Delafield. Waaaaay too much recounting of every plot of every novel and Delafield was very prolific.  The only time the biography really comes to life is the chapter in Elizabeth’s own words which describes  her life as a postulant in a convent at the age of 21 and the touching reason she decided not to become a nun.

Occasionally when Violet Powell describes Elizabeth packing empty Christmas cracker boxes with earthy primroses to give to friends or the moment a robin from her Devon garden flies into her bedroom after her death at only 53 you get glimpses of what this book could have been.  We are well overdue for a definitive biography of E M Delafield.  Happy New Year!


Cath said...

It does sound a bit like I Capture the Castle and something else which I can't bring to mind, possibly it is the Mitford sisters. I have Nancy's book of essays on my library pile and am so looking forward to reading it.

Audrey said...

This was one of my favorite Persephones! I'm glad you told us the biography was leaden because otherwise I would have gone in search of it! Happy New Year to you too!

LyzzyBee said...

I loved Guard Your Daughters, and really enjoyed that darker undercurrent and the artless narration.

Vintage Reading said...

Hi Cath, never read Nancy's essays but I love her novels.

Hi Audrey, yes best Persephone ever! The Delafield biog was written in 1988 so we definitely need a new one!

LyzzyBee, hi, I think I'm going to re-read to catch all the nuances again. A wonderful read.

Simon Thomas said...

Hurrah, glad you enjoyed Guard Your Daughters! I love it so much, and I'm so delighted it is now a Persephone.

And isn't the Powell biography a disappointment? Such a shame; I was so excited when I started and really unimpressed by it.

Anbolyn said...

I read Guard Your Daughters many years ago when I got it as an Interlibrary Loan from Oklahoma. I really liked it, but wasn't able to savor it so I think it needs a reread. I've never been able to finish I Capture the Castle - I liked this much better!

Vintage Reading said...

Hi Simon, yes loved it - saw your comments in the back of my copy!

Anbolyn, I think it's clearly influenced by the Dodie Smith (particularly the father who writes detective novels) but it's really a very different book. Very enjoyable.

Caroline (Bookword) said...

Hi I recently bought the Dorothy Tutton book but not yet got into it. Your review has inspired me to get going. Thanks.

Vintage Reading said...

Hi Caroline, do post a review if your read it. Would be interested to see what you think.