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In memory of the wife who had once dishonored and always despised him, Brian de Retteville founded a 12th-century convent in Norfolk. Two centuries later, the Benedictine community is well established there and, as befits a convent whose origin had such ironic beginnings, the inhabitants are prey to the ambitions, squabbles, jealousies, and pleasures of less spiritual environments. An outbreak of the Black Death, the collapse of the convent spire, the Bishop's visitation, and a nun's disappearance are interwoven with the everyday life of the nuns, novices, and prioresses in this marvelous imagined history of a 14th-century nunnery.
John Barnard, a leading merchant, is a pillar of 19th century rectitude. Though stern with his tippling wife, he is undermined by helpless love for his cold-hearted daughter and the engaging weakling Thomas Kettle.
In Lolly Willowes, Sylvia Townsend Warner tells of an aging spinster's struggle to break way from her controlling family--a classic story that she treats with cool feminist intelligence, while adding a dimension of the supernatural and strange. Warner is one of the outstanding and indispensable mavericks of twentieth-century literature, a writer to set beside Djuna Barnes and Jane Bowles, with a subversive genius that anticipates the fantastic flights of such contemporaries as Angela Carter and Jeanette Winterson.
SYLVIA TOWNSEND WARNER (1893-1978) was a poet, short-story writer, and novelist, as well as an authority on early English music and a member of the Communist Party. Her first novel, Lolly Willowes (available from New York Review Books), appeared in 1926 and was the first ever Book of- the-Month Club selection. Mr. Fortune's Maggot, her second, followed a year later. The Salutation was the title novella of a 1932 collection. According to Warner's biographer Claire Harman, it "was almost certainly begun in the expectation that it would grow into a full-length novel, a sequel, or an extended coda" to Mr. Fortune's Maggot. Yet it also stands on its own, and Warner considered it "the purest, the least time-serving story I ever wrote." Over the course of her long career, Sylvia Townsend Warner published five more novels, seven books of poetry, a translation of Proust, fourteen volumes of short stories, and a biography of T. H. White. NYRB also publishes Summer Will Show, Warner's novel of the French Revolution of 1848.ADAM MARS-JONES was born in London, where he lives and works. His fiction includes Monopolies of Love (1992) and The Waters of Thirst (1993). He writes about films and books for London newspapers.
After a decade in one South Seas mission, a London bank-clerk-turned-minister sets his heart on serving a remote volcanic island. Fanua contains neither cannibals nor Christians, but its citizens, his superior warns, are like children-immoral children. Still, Mr. Timothy Fortune lights out for Fanua. Yet after three years, he has made only one convert, and his devotion to the boy may prove more sensual than sacred. Mr. Fortune#x19;s Maggot, Sylvia Townsend Warner#x19;s follow-up to Lolly Willowes, is lyrical, droll, and deeply affecting, and her missionary captivated his creator as much as he did her readers. Long after the work#x19;s publication, Warner began the novella The Salutation. Now adrift and starving on the Brazilian pampas, Mr. Fortune is rescued by an elderly widow, who delights in having an Englishman about the house. Her heir, however, may beg to differ. Brilliant and subversive, Mr. Fortune#x19;s Maggot and its sequel are now available in one volume. They show Sylvia Townsend Warner at the height of her powers.
As well as being a novelist, poet and letter writer of remarkable wit and vigor, Sylvia Townsend Warner was also one of the most entertaining and original short-story writers of this century., She possessed an extraordinary range and variety, from the hilarious to the melancholy, from naturalistic and sometimes lethal evocations of middle-class life to the imaginary worlds of the Kingdoms of Elfin: few have written as well as she did about the lonely, the eccentric, the voluble and the old, and few have had as strong a sense of touching absurdities and vagaries of human behavior. The stories included here are drawn from several collections, the earliest published in 1932 and the latest in 1984, six years after her death; they have been selected on grounds of excellence, and to suggest the breadth and scope of her work. To those unfamiliar with Sylvia Townsend Warner's world, the Selected Stories is the ideal introduction; to those who already love and admire her books, it will prove a perfect reminder and embodiment of this most magical of writers.
Sophia Willoughby, a young Englishwoman from an aristocratic family and a person of strong opinions and even stronger will, has packed her cheating husband off to Paris. He can have his tawdry mistress. She intends to devote herself to the serious business of raising her two children in proper Tory fashion. Then tragedy strikes: the children die, and Sophia, in despair, finds her way to Paris, arriving just in time for the revolution of 1848. Before long she has formed the unlikeliest of close relations with Minna, her husband's sometime mistress, whose dramatic recitations, based on her hair-raising childhood in czarist Russia, electrify audiences in drawing rooms and on the street alike. Minna, "magnanimous and unscrupulous, fickle, ardent, and interfering," leads Sophia on a wild adventure through bohemian and revolutionary Paris, in a story that reaches an unforgettable conclusion amidst the bullets, bloodshed, and hope of the barricades.Sylvia Townsend Warner was one of the most original and inventive of twentieth-century English novelists. At once an adventure story, a love story, and a novel of ideas, Summer Will Show is a brilliant reimagining of the possibilities of historical fiction.
In 1873, orphaned Sukey Bond leaves London to take her first job, and finds a forbidden love.
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