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Illyrian Spring (1935)

by Ann Bridge

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1799114,744 (3.99)89
A beautiful story of travel and self-discovery.
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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
"Freedom is within. It does not live in Dalmatia any more than in London", June 21, 2015

This review is from: Illyrian Spring (Kindle Edition)
This is an absolutely charming light read which will have you booking a holiday to Croatia.
Written in 1935 it is the story of well-to-do artist Grace Kilmichael who is 'running away' from her family to decide what to do next. Her economist husband seems to belittle her and her work (and perhaps to be getting overly friendly with a female colleague) while her 19 year old daughter Linnet is starting to belittle her too. As the author observes:

"Tenuous, elusive but tenacious, this tradition of inferiority persists - subtly imposed by the husbands; tacitly and often unconsciously acquiesced in by the wives. Their views, somehow, are worth less than men's; the moral initative has passed from them; in some strange way - whether consciously or not - they are subordinate. Now this subjection was tiresome and fatiguing enough while it was subjection to one person only, the husband, but for Lady Kilmichael's generation it had suddenly become subjection to their children as well, and when it reached that stage it became insupportable."

So our heroine makes her way to Venice and thence to the Dalmatian coast (Croatia) (the Virago edition has a helpful map at the front showing the places, many of which have changed since the book was published.) While painting, wandering round ancient buildings and taking in the beautiful scenery she meets up with a young man, Nicholas, deeply unhappy at his father's insistence that he abandon his beloved painting for a 'proper' career in architecture. The two of them spend some sublime - and innocent - weeks in Illyria, and Lady K starts to 'find herself'...

Ann Bridge's descriptions of the country are quite exquisite - hills covered in irises, obliging and picturesque locals, wonderful little restaurants. Somehow I couldn't massively warm to Nicholas: perhaps it was his slight grumpiness, or maybe his gastric problems ("my tummy") . The author has a serious message about the true nature of freedom, but expect a rather convenient ending. I could imagine this making a 1930s movie.
Probably more 3.5 than 4 *. ( )
  starbox | Jun 21, 2015 |
As a member of the Virago group on LibraryThing, I would often hear, of the incredible difficulty in getting hold of a green copy of Illyrian Spring by Ann Bridge. Green edition or not though – I really wanted to read it, and so was delighted to learn recently of a new edition being published by Daunt books. I ordered it immediately, and was impressed upon its arrival with the attractive high quality of this lovely new edition. In fact when I was with Virago reading friends over this last weekend I showed my copy off – and they pronounced it gorgeous and some of them pledged to buy it. Thankfully the contents are every bit as wonderful as I had been expecting and I enjoyed it hugely.

Lady Grace Kilmichael is a well-known painter, she is also a 40 something wife and mother. However she is now running away. Often feeling harried by her daughter and unappreciated by her husband, whose friendship with another woman is some cause for concern, Grace seeks an escape. The Europe, through which Grace travels, is a different place – geographically from the Europe of today – but Ann Bridge’s descriptions of the landscape are breath-taking. En route to Split and Dubrovnik, Grace travels through Paris, Venice and Torcello – where she meets a young man half her age, an aspiring painter in need of help and guidance. However when Grace arrives on the spectacular Dalmatian coast she finds the peace and tranquillity she requires to start and answer the questions at the heart of her flight.
“To get to Clissa from Trau one follows at first the shore road towards Spalato, along that strip of fertile coast sheltered from the bora, the bitter north wind, by the mountains behind, and ennobled with the seven fortresses, each with a village at its foot, which still recall the dominion of Venice in the days of her power. At Salona the road forks; the right-hand branch crosses the Giadro towards Spalato, the left-hand one passes through the modern village of Salona, and then climbs in great loops towards Clissa and the pass.”
Nicholas and Grace strike up a friendship that allows Grace to help him with his painting, but Grace is soon made aware that Nicholas’s feeling for her may have become a little more complicated, and in turn must face up to her own changing emotions.
I have no experience of the area of Europe that the book talks about – having never really been anywhere outside the UK. However Ann Bridge’s amazing sense of place allowed me to encounter the landscape of 1930’s Europe, with its colourful peasant peoples herding goats through ancient ruins, works of art, small unspoilt communities untouched by the modern world.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable read –and I envy those who still have it to look forward to. I can now understand fully why so many people enthuse over this book. It certainly deserves to be read and read, and I am so glad Daunt books re issued it for us. ( )
2 vote Heaven-Ali | Jun 18, 2012 |
I got this because I liked Peking PIcnic. Some of her later stories are more adventuire, but this seems quiet.
1 vote antiquary | Jun 12, 2011 |
Setting
Illyrian Spring . . . oh to be in Illyria during this long dark tea time of the soul. Doubtless, some of you are wondering, “where the heck is Illyria?” A good question. Illyria in this particular work refers to the first “Yugo-slavia” or perhaps the Republic of Ragusa, now Croatia (the author uses both terms interchangeably). Most of the action takes place in and around the city of Ragusa or Dubrovnik as it is known now.

So much for setting. On to more important issues, such as time, plot, characters, theme, and symbolism (not discussed here) and anything else inquiring minds want to know.

Time
A little vague. After WWI but before WWII. More about this issue to come

Plot
Lady Kilmartin, internationally renowned painter and unappreciated wife of Sir Walter Kilmartin an equally renowned economist, decides she has had it with her unappreciative family, kicks up her heels and heads for Greece to paint and consider whether her marriage is over. Before she reaches Greece, she meets Nicholas Humphries, a frustrated painter (his family wants him to be an architect) sixteen years her junior. Things happen. They always do. The denouement is reached and the resolution . . . resolved. But . . . in the meantime, pressing questions arise . . .

Read the rest of this review at Dark Tea Times
4 vote urania1 | Nov 20, 2010 |
When I read fiction, it's normally of the romance or sword & sorcery varieties, so when a friend recommended I try this, I was a bit dubious. A middle-aged coming-of-age story / fictional travelogue, really? But, I decided to trust her and - oh, I'm so glad I did! This is such a lovely book.

The descriptions of Grace's travels are beautifully, crisply done and the characters themselves are all quite charming. The perspective of the writer/narrator displays such grace, maturity, and unexpected humor that, as soon as I finished this book, I began to look for the next of hers to try. ( )
1 vote thewalkinggirl | Jun 26, 2010 |
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ann Bridgeprimary authorall editionscalculated
Uglow, JennyIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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To
All the Linnets
To one Nicholas
and to
FRANCES AND PATRICK
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Lady Kilmichael took her seat in the boat train at Victoria hurriedly, opened The Times, and hid behind it.
"Suddenly the thought, 'this is like an idyll', drifted into her head..." (Introduction)
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A beautiful story of travel and self-discovery.

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From back cover: "She lay in bed, listening to the nightingales and the river under her window, and asking herself with a sort of exasperated astonishment whether she could really be falling in love with Nicholas".

Even though she is a renowned painter Lady Kilmichael is diffident and sad. Her remote, brilliant husband has no time for her and she feels she only exasperates her delightful, headstrong daughter. So, telling no one where she is going, she embarks on a painting trip to the Dalmatian coast of Yugoslavia - in the Thirties a remote and exotic place. There she takes under her wing Nicholas, a bitterly unhappy young man, forbidden by his family to pursue the painting he loves and which Grace recognises as being of rare quality. Their adventures and searching discussions lead to something much deeper than simple friendship...

This beautiful novel, gloriously evoking the countryside and people of Illyria, has been a favourite since its publication in 1935, both as sensitive travel book and as unusual and touching love story.
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