Virago Month, F. M. Mayor’s The Squire’s Daughter, & the Broch Project

Sorry, we make a lot of jokes about rehab here. I'm in iced tea rehab (three Arnold Palmer today!)

I’m in iced tea rehab this summer (three Arnold Palmers today:)!

I do want to have an online social life–sort of!

This is Virago month.   I belong to several online groups, but I neglect them.  Fortunately bloggers announced that the Virago group at Library Thing is sponsoring a Virago all-the-time reading month.    I dutifully have begun ONE  Virago,  F. M. Mayor’s The Squire’s Daughter (1929).   It is not quite as elegantly-written as The Rector’s Daughter,  her masterpiece,  but it intelligently dissects the interwar issues facing the aristocrats who enjoyed the Edwardian age and their children, the Lost Generation.

The Squire’s Daughter  begins at the turn of the century, a Golden Age for the the aristocracy.  Fast forward 30 years, and Carne, the DeLaceys’ Jacobean mansion, is too expensive, the servant problem is shocking, and the Squire is faced with selling it.  His two daughters gad about London, and his son is a dilettante who socializes with arty types.  But then there is their golden cousin, Rex, a brilliant, strong, attractive, athletic man  (like Jamie in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander book–Jamie, Jamie!–I must try to finish Volume 1!).  If only Rex were the heir! Sir Geoffrey thinks.

All right, I’m enjoying this, but I do find the restless, “boyish” heroine, Ron, annoying.  She hangs out with the wrong set in London and alienates her parents’ friends and serfs (sorry, villagers and inferiors) with her sharp tongue at home.  She is reckless, gads about with the chauffeur, and hates herself after he kisses her and then resigns because she rebuked him.   Will she be a spinster like Aunt Violet, whom I quite like?   Actually, I know whom she’ll marry if she marries.  Could it be the 40ish v-i-c-a-r from a neighboring town?  Oh, I’m probably wrong.  More on this later (since I don’t know now).

Mayor, F. M. - The Squire's Daughter coverI must mock the servant problem.  In many interwar books, there is so much grief over this. (Our empire came later.)  On the farm my grandmother rose at dawn to make breakfast for the hired hands, did all the housework with the help of my mother, cooked two more meals, chauffeured her children to Catholic school in town, and played Bridge at night.  Eventually they moved into town.  My grandmother and mother vowed never to go outdoors again.  They hated nature!

But how do people do it?

I mean the servant problem!

No!  Keep up with their online groups.

Our pear tree is growing.

Our pear tree.

I’m sitting in the back yard listening to the cicadas.  The sky is overcast and  purple, getting dark.  Everything is green, green, green.  There has been too much rain.  The trees we planted a few years ago are growing, and I feel proud, because we  never planted trees before.  There are no mosquitoes at the moment, because we’ve had a few days without rain.

This time of year I  sit in the back yard and drink iced tea (“Want some iced tea?” I ask my cousin who is on the wagon).

The death of Virgil broch 27426And then there is the Broch project.  In May 2010  I vowed to read Hermann Broch’s The Death of Virgil. Yes, it is hilarious that I am still reading it.  I read 50 pages in 2010.  Then I started over in 2011.  Then I started over in 2012.  Then I started over…

This year I have made it through 100 pages. And then I collapsed.   “That is probably the farthest anyone has ever read in that book,” everyone says.

But I must continue.

It is a difficult modernist novel.  It’s all stream-of-consciousness, the beautiful sentences go on for pages, Virgil is dying, he still has an eye for the boys (one accompanies him from the ship to Augustus’s palace), he wrote the poem The Aeneid and regrets it isn’t finished, sometimes it is clear, sometimes it is unclear, and starting around page 100 it seems to be arranged in verse.

No, I’m not enjoying it.

I should go back to Virgil.  I mean the real Virgil, not the novel.

The Latin is much more fun than this novel translated from the German.

As someone said at Goodreads, “So, I finished. What I want to know is, where is my prize?”

That’s how I’m feeling at the moment.  But I must finish.

Are your summer reading projects going well?

12 thoughts on “Virago Month, F. M. Mayor’s The Squire’s Daughter, & the Broch Project

  1. I reading viragos and Persephone books for AV/AA interspersed with other things. Currently reading the third book in Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan series for WITmonth. I haven’t ever read FM Mayor though have The third Miss Symons (is that the right title) on my kindle.

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    • Lots of good reading! And you’re fullfiling your project commitments. I loved Ferrante’s first book, but haven’t gone on yet. I did very much like The Third Miss Symons. And it is blessedly short, which I sometimes like.

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  2. Oh, the servant problem! That is one problem w. interwar women’s books. Just washed the dishes at midnight… Everybody should do her own housework.

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  3. I confess to reading more Persephones than Viragos so far (and I never do only them for a month – I’d go mad if I restricted myself so!). I’ve actually read more for Women In Translation month I think, but then I fell off the wagon and re-read The Master and Margarita just because I wanted to. I can only ever read what I want! 🙂

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    • Good for you for keeping up with the Women in Translation! I love the Viragos, but I can’t read them all month, either.:) Yes, reading what you want is the best way. I do have some women in Translation picked out, but don’t know if I’ll get to them this month.

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  4. I am late in reading mails so I have a whole batch and I am glad when I find yours! Not being American but of “good” (!) European stock, I have heard about the servant problem even before the inter-wars. I mean I have heard it existed… etc. I am far too young to have known the inter-wars and the post-WWII and I am only coming per force to the age of housekeeping and cleaning ladies and gardeners. Well, I am only 21! No comment to “The Squire’sDaughter”, it is not my favourite. And my Virago is with other friends a very safe Barvara Pym, “Crampton Hodnet”. Enough of that.

    I am glad, very, very, very glad (the emphasis is due to my Latin/Romanesque/French origins) that it took YOU so long to enter Broch’s book. I thought I was dumb. I saw the beauty of it but I must have begun it it thrice at least and made difficult progress. But if it happened the same to YOU, then, I am not so stupid and I feel better already. Now I may end “Crampton Hodnet with my fellow readers and then loook for a Virgil!

    Thank you, Kat;

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    • Barbara Pym is great! I didn’t realize Virago had published her. Now I can read a Pym for Virago month. (The Squire’s Daughter is not my favorite, either.)

      I do wish I remembered enough German to read Broch. There’s only one English translation, and though the language is beautiful, it’s always nice to have a choice of translations. Perhaps The Sleepwalkers is better? But, no, you remind me that I’d better get my copy of The Death of Virgil out and get reading again!

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      • I read them in French as my German is not fluent enough to appreciate the intricacies of the language. The Sleepwalkers is the same nightmare (sorry for the pun).

        And see how many Virago(e)s you will be able to read this month! You’ll be winner of the number…

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  5. The cicadas are just wonderful. This is my favourite part of the summer (which is not my favourite season by any means, but perhaps as it winds down I am better able to appreciate parts of it). My reading projects this summer have been slim, and, so, successful. I’m currently crawling through three books, two long (a GRRMartin for “fun”? and a reread of Alias Grace) and a short (Hubert Acquin’s Next Episode (which will probably take as long as either of the other two – sometimes it is the slim ones that are most tricksy, but evidently not as tricksy as Broch), moving steadily and contentedly, but perhaps it’s time to add another book for flavour! Enjoy your Virago month – full marks for participation!

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    • I love August. The light is so beautiful! I did read the first Martin and keep meaning to go on to the others but I suppose that means I’m not quite hooked. Ooh, Alias Grace is a good one! Slim books CAN be tricksy. The problem with the Broch is that I just look at it and feel bored.:)

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