Monday, 20 June 2016

The Ladies of Lyndon by Margaret Kennedy

The Ladies of Lyndon (1923) was my very first Kennedy as well as being Kennedy's very first published novel.

When I recently spotted that Jane @Beyond Eden Rock was hosting a Margaret Kennedy Day today, I knew that this would be the perfect opportunity for me to jump on board the Kennedy bandwagon.

The Ladies of Lyndon is not without its flaws (bumpy jumps in time for instance), but, at its heart, it is oh so charming and amusing in a Noel Coward kind of way.

It's the kind of very English writing that I love - a type of comedy of manners, full of class consciousness and social conventions.

There's John:
He had always looked forward to marriage as a duty, inevitable, but infinitely boring and to be postponed if possible.
And Marian:
She had such a faculty for making nice things look insignificant.
and Marian again:
'Well, I don't want to criticize.' said Marian, who liked nothing better.

There was a touch of Edith Wharton's doomed melancholia to Kennedy's writing - just with more tongue-in-cheek humour and less of the trademark Wharton angst.

Her female protagonist, Agatha, was conflicted, prevaricating and constantly making misguided choices. She seemed to be constantly tossed about and easily influenced by events and other people. I wasn't sure if she was all sweet innocence, perfectly hapless or dangerously capable of tremendous self-delusion. The ending for Agatha is rather like a punch in the gut.

All the stuff about the comfortable, respectable family seat of Lyndon versus the newly rich Bragge with his ghastly Braxhall and farcical frescoes, felt like a precursor to Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited.

But, of course, as the title tells us, this is a story about ladies.

Young ladies, sisters, domineering mothers, widows, martyring step-mothers and maids. Kennedy gives us time inside all of their heads, and although we may not necessarily sympathise with all of them, we can empathise.

And that's where the secret to Kennedy's success lies - her authentic dialogue and believable characters. I'm curious to see where she takes me next with The Constant Nymph.

Book 5/20

5 comments:

  1. Thank you for taking the time and trouble to find and read a book and be part of Margaret Kennedy day. I'm so pleased you like that book. It's not her best but it does show some of the things she did very well and that you will see develop in her later books. I do hope you will enjoy The Constant Nymph and the books that followed.

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    1. It was great fun thanks Jane. And it's always lovely to find a 'new' author to get into.

      I also liked how she referenced a scene from Mansfield Park in this book - the one where the Crawford siblings are discussing matrimony. The ability to partner well (or not as the case seemed to mostly be) was a another big theme in TLOL.

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  2. This was the first novel I read by Margaret Kennedy and it made me an instant fan of hers. Together and Apart was also very good!

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    1. Excellent - I put Together & Apart (& The Constant Nymph) on order at work :-)

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  3. I didn't get to do the MK thing this year but it's been lovely seeing people discover her!

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