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The Love Child (Virago Modern Classics) by…

The Love Child (Virago Modern Classics) (original 1927; edition 1981)

by Edith Olivier

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855141,824 (4.17)43
Title:The Love Child (Virago Modern Classics)
Authors:Edith Olivier
Info:Virago Press Ltd (1981), Edition: New Ed, Paperback, 216 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:fiction, 20th century, women, Britain, Virago, VMC

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The Love-Child by Edith Olivier (1927)


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A Pinocchio-esque story for grown-ups, where loneliness and grief result in some accidental tentative magic realism exploring (un)conditional love, possessiveness and jealousy. Despite its Victorian-style title which turns out to be surprisingly apt and touching in context, the novella is about the powerful effects of love in its various forms. The transformative powers of love on Agatha from her languid passive nature to that violent tempest is a beauty to behold. Recommended for anybody with two hours to spare. ( )
  kitzyl | Feb 11, 2017 |
real...or imaginary?, 22 Dec. 2011
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This review is from: Love-Child (VMC) (Paperback)
Absolutely addictive reading, as we follow strange, awkward Agatha; desolate after her mother's death, she 'resurrects' the imaginary friend, Clarissa, from her youth. At first tentative of others' reactions to their games, it soon seems as if the elfin child is real- the vicar sends his daughter to play with her, the servants 'think she had done the right thing in adopting a child'. They both live for each other.
But even dream companions grow up; Clarissa becomes a young woman, still devoted to Agatha but eager to have real adventures instead of just playing at them. Cars, dances,picnics; Agatha, old before her time anyway, must reluctantly tag along or lose Clarissa.
Totally weird and brilliant book ( )
  starbox | Jul 9, 2016 |
Edith Olivier’s first slight little novel; The Love Child is a wonderful, quirky little fantasy. Part dark hearted fairy-tale, it is a story of an obsession born of loneliness.

Agatha Bodenham has lived a quiet, largely solitary life with her mother. When she is thirty-two her mother dies, and Agatha finds herself alone but for the servants. She remembers the friend and great joy of her childhood – Clarissa. Clarissa her imaginary friend with whom she played and had adventures, but who Agatha had to rid herself of at fourteen when her governess mocked her. Now, with loneliness swamping her, Agatha finds she can summon up the image of Clarissa – just as she was all those years ago.

“She was smaller even than Agatha had imagined her, and she looked young for her age, which must have been ten or eleven. Her hair was brushed off her face and tied back with a brown ribbon, a little darker than the hair, which was dappled like the skin of a fawn. Her face was tiny, very pale, and her eyes were dappled brown like her hair. She wore a short white dress of embroidered cambric, and on her feet were the little red shoes which Agatha knew she had always worn.”

At first Clarissa comes just by night, she remains an insubstantial spirit like wraith – and Agatha is able to play with the child of her imagination as she did in childhood. Clarissa brings Agatha great joy and companionship; she is a secret which Agatha hugs to herself. Yet Clarissa begins to develop more substance, and soon Agatha becomes aware, that sometimes, other people can see her.

Agatha takes Clarissa to Brighton – here among people who don’t know her, Agatha can spend several happy weeks with Clarissa. Homesickness calls Agatha home, and she must come up with a way of explaining the presence of Clarissa. In some panic Agatha rashly describes Clarissa as her own love child.

“ ‘A love-child.’ The phrase had surged up from her inner consciousness, and she spoke it without realising what it implied. It did just express what Clarissa truly was to her – the creation of the love of all her being. It was truth, and in face of truth she knew that no one could take the child away, She had saved her.
But at what a cost! Her position, her name, her character – she had given them all, but Clarissa was hers, with a right which no law could override.”

the love child vmcClarissa doesn’t remain a little girl, soon she is seventeen, and still awkward around other people she finds she is happiest staying close to Agatha. However Kitty the rector’s daughter who is the same age as Clarissa and who Agatha and Clarissa have been obliged to entertain over the years, introduces Clarissa to David. David, Clarissa and Agatha go driving and attend picnics, Agatha must always attend, and David becomes increasingly irritated. Agatha is watchful, jealous and terrified that David may take Clarissa from her. David is a dull young man, Clarissa’s irrepressible spirit draws David like a moth to a candle but Agatha is determined to keep Clarissa for herself. Both wish only to possess Clarissa for themselves. There was a moment which reminded me of Rapunzel as David stands below Agatha’s window calling to Clarissa. Agatha spirals off into obsessive, desperation; Clarissa is all that stands between her and the loneliness she fears.

This novella is an absolute joy, one I had meant to read for ages – there are a lot of books on my shelves like that though. I glanced through the frustratingly short Wikipedia entry for Edith Olivier, and see that until he died in 1919; Edith was fairly dominated by her father. In 1927 (the year this novella was first published) Edith’s younger sister died, and so I suppose it is possible to see elements of Edith in the character of Agatha – at least as she is when the story begins.

Bello books are doing a great job bringing books like The Love Child to a new generation of readers, and I am very happy with my little Bello edition – but of course original green Virago collector that I am – I will keep my eyes peeled for an original VMC edition to add to it. ( )
  Heaven-Ali | Sep 3, 2015 |
The Love-Child by Edith Olivier; (VMC #46); (5*)

Agatha Bodenham is a 32 year old spinster who has lived all of her years with her mother. During her childhood she was a lonely little girl and had, as many children do, an imaginary friend or playmate whom she called Clarissa. Her mother and the servants would often hear her playing in the garden, calling out to and laughing with her 'playmate, running to and fro.

When Agatha's mother died she became very bereft and led a solitary existence for some time. Not being a very social person she was unable to think of what to do to keep from feeling so terribly alone and lonely. Suddenly her childhood friend, Clarissa, came to mind. Agatha wondered if she tried hard enough, would the child return to her.

So she would spend her days and evenings speaking to the imaginary Clarissa and suddenly found with her the substance of her playmate and companion of her long ago. At first the child would come to Agatha only at night but as time went on she began comeing in the daytime as well. The servants were surprised to see Miss Agatha running through the plants and shrubbery of the garden laughing gaily and seemingly very happy. Soon the child developed enough substance, through the love of Agatha, that others were able to see her as well. Agatha explained Clarissa as her 'love-child' in order that things may remain the same. She was very happy as she and Clarissa focused all of their time, love and attention on one another.

As Clarissa grew up she becomes interested in young friends, playing tennis, dancing, learning to drive a motor vehicle and when she became interested in a male companion Agatha frooze emotionally. She feared that when Clarissa's emotional focus was removed from herself and placed elsewhere that she would fade away again.

This little tale has just the right element of the fantasy and gothic ghost story to it. The theme of loneliness which runs throughout the book are perfectly fitting to the story. The prose is gentle, sensitive and melancholy. The story shows the pain of the lonely person who has no one on whom to pour out their love.

I found The Love-Child to be a perfectly lovely story and would love to find more of the same to read. It fact I was quite charmed by it.
I gave it five stars and highly recommend it to any reader who craves or enjoys a bit of the whimsey. ( )
2 vote rainpebble | Aug 2, 2014 |
As The Love-Child opens, we see Agatha, a 32 year old spinster, burying her mother. Her life that always was empty and bereft of companionship is now even more so. To console herself, Agatha raises from the dead of her childhood her imaginary friend, Clarissa. All is well and good with Agatha's make-believe world that she shares with Clarissa until something goes terribly wrong--other people start to be able to see Clarissa too.

This is a confounding situation for Agatha indeed, and one which she handles with aplomb. The girl who was once her imaginary friend is now, scandalously, introduced to the world as her love child. Like other children, Clarissa grows up, and much to Agatha's satisfaction. Agatha's fantasy sours, however, when a young man falls in love with her. Here is where the book really displays its brilliance because it is forced to answer a difficult question--whose fantasy shall Clarissa ultimately be, Agatha's or her suitor's?

The issue of fantasy ownership within the novel is not to be underestimated given this novel's short length and pithy prose. It very delicately balances notions of incest, lesbianism, feminism, and heterosexual prerogative with surprising results.

A highly recommended read. ( )
5 vote mambo_taxi | Nov 4, 2010 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Edith Olivierprimary authorall editionscalculated
Cecil, DavidIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lee, HermioneIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Agatha Bodenham had unconsciously moved a pace or two from the others, and she stood, isolated, near the head of her mother's grave while the clergyman finished the service.
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'What was she?  Not a child, for she was seventeen, and taller than Kitty: not a girl, for she floated like a feather and flew into trees like a bird; not a spirit - she was human to touch.  But to-night she was all made of mischief and magic, remote from him, and yet calling him to her...'

At thirty-two, her mother dead, Agatha Bodenham finds herself quite alone. She summons back to life the only friend she ever knew, Clarissa, the dream companion of her childhood. At first Clarissa comes by night, and then by day, gathering substance in the warmth of Agatha's obsessive love until it seems that others too can see her. See, but not touch, for Agatha has made her love child for herself alone. No man may approach her elfin creation of perfect beauty. If he does, the love which summoned her can spirit her away...
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