Monday, November 30, 2009

Revisiting Elizabeth von Arnim

by Elizabeth von Arnim

The day young Lucy Entwhistle's father died, she was only able to stand, staring, feeling nothing. Along came Wemyss, a man of about forty-five, who had just lost his wife. This shared bereavement brings he and Lucy together: Wemyss makes all the plans for Mr. Entwhistle's funeral, they spend much time together comforting each other, and they soon become engaged. Lucy's aunt, Mrs. Entwhistle, is rather perplexed by the whole turn of affairs, but she determines to like Wemyss for Lucy's sake, even though he shows all the character of a spoiled brat.

Vera was Wemyss's former wife, who died under somewhat mysterious circumstances, yet whose memory permeates much. At first, I thought the story was going to be headed in a similar direction as Rebecca, but even though I didn't particularly like Max de Winter, he had nothing on Wemyss. Everard Wemyss has made my top five list of most hated characters in literature. His behavior made me want to slap him, shake him, finally to punch him. I loved Miss Entwhistle's standing up to him, and wished Lucy was more able to assert herself. But like many in an unhealthy relationship, she's quick to forgive and forget. Reading about them as they progressed from engagement into marriage was like watching a car crash - you know it's going to be terrible, but can't help continuing.

I read this after reading and loving The Enchanted April, the book that was, incidentally, written directly after this one. Vera was much more sobering, though it did have moments of humor, such as when Miss Entwhistle thinks that Wemyss's courting is "not vegetarian," and the one-word pronouncements of the widow whom Miss Entwhistle takes as an oracle. I am thrilled to have met a new author this month, and look forward to reading more of Elizabeth von Arnim's books.


Serendipity Handmade said...

I just started reading your blog, and you are the first librarian that I've "met" who enjoys more of Von Arnim than "Enchanted April!" I think that "Vera" is the only work of hers that I haven't read; my favorite of hers is "Love".

Mary said...

"Vera" was definitely very different from "The Enchanted April," but I love it when authors can show me their versatility. I'm definitely looking forward to exploring Von Arnim's work more, and will have to look up "Love."