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Loving Without Tears by M. J. Farrell
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Loving Without Tears (1951)

by M. J. Farrell

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I became a Molly Keane fan after reading The Rising Tide and Taking Chances. I’m starting to notice some trends in Molly Keane’s novels: a domineering family matriarch, an old family house in Ireland. Loving Without Tears has both, but the house in this book isn’t important. Covering the space of a single day, and an epilogue three weeks later, this book tells the story of Angel, a woman who clings tightly to her grown children, watching in despair as they fall in love and intend to marry.

Loving Without Tears is sadly not my favorite of the Molly Keane books I’ve read. Set in the years after WWII, there’s still this wonderful dreamlike quality to it (for some reason, I kept thinking of the setting of the musical Mamma Mia as I read!). The focus of this novel is on the relationship between Angel and Julian and Slaney; and I found myself almost detesting Angel for nearly smothering her children. But in some ways you feel sorry for her; if her children leave, she really doesn’t have much to live for. There are some clichéd characters in this novel, namely the vampy American that Julian intends to marry and the caustic land agent, but some of the others are very well portrayed. On the other hand, I was a bit exasperated at Chris and Tiddley, two characters who basically allow themselves to be used as doormats.

As I read this book, I kept having the feeling that I was just floating along; unfortunately, I didn’t find myself caring much for any of the characters or their motivations. Because the action is set during the course of a single day, the author has a lot to get in, and I found myself believing that all of this would take place in such a short period of time. But Molly Keane is skilled at describing things; and since this book is set during the month of June, it was the perfect antidote to the December days I read this book in. I wasn’t fully enamored of this novel, but I’m still a Molly Keane fan and have several of her other books on my shelf. ( )
  Kasthu | Feb 3, 2011 |
Loving Without Tears is a mix of Philadelphia Story, the Ann Sothern Maisie films, and a Noel Coward cocktail party

The main character, Angel, is familiar to Keane readers; the all-powerful matriarch who controls her castle home with an iron fist. Only Angel does it with smother-love, rather than fear. She awaits her baby boy's return after WW2. But the baby boy is a 20 year old RAF veteran who comes home with a much older fiancee, a snappy widowed showgirl who speaks so much American slang that she could have stepped out of an old RKO "B" movie. Add a hormonal 18 year old daughter, a psychic housekeeper, a practically feral houseboy/butler who walks barefoot in the drawing room, a soulful land manager, a 31 year old war hero acting like a 16 year old, a 21 year old niece who worships the aunt who gave her a home, and a theatrical jack-of-all trades who makes divine hats.

The problem is that none of these characters is really worth the reading. Angel, in an attempt to keep her family lovingly entrapped, uses such obvious ploys to control them that I became impatient with all of them for falling for her ruses. She is right on one point, however; the four young lovers are certainly too immature to marry. The problem is that two of these young lovers are men who have fought in WW2; in fact, one is the 31 year old colonel who earned his rank in the Burmese jungle. That he would be trailing after a young girl who has no experience with life is almost creepy and that he would fall for the gimmicks Angel uses to keep him at a distance from her daughter suggests that he is stupid or inexplicably immature. The other war hero, 20 year old Julian, has never outgrown his adolescent all-consuming interest in tinkering with engines and clocks. Showgirl Sally fights for her fiance, not because she loves him since she doesn't, but apparently because she " rescued" him from something and feels responsible for him. This isn't made clear and there is no reason why a smart cookie like Sally would fall for such a drip. Conveniently, she has a history with the perceptive land manager Oliver. The niece Tiddeley, constantly described as dwarfish and looking like an eight year old boy, suddenly becomes a seductress with the application of makeup, a decent hair cut, and a dress that fits properly.

Keane makes fun of her characters calling them foolish, selfish, silly. Ultimately, they are just too self-centered and silly to spend time with. I plodded to the end of this short novel because it was by Molly Keane. I suggest Keane's Good Behavior and Rising Tide as two novels which explore the powerful matriarch much more satisfactorily. ( )
  Liz1564 | Jan 24, 2011 |
I read this fairly soon after Devoted Ladies, which it echoes closely in theme if not in plot. Camp handsome serving men; thwarted powerful women; ignored and ridiculed weaker women with silly nicknames and physical disadvantages; beautiful American vamps. Probably they need to be read further apart. But it runs along well, amusing and cruel, and Angel, the controlling mother, is finally vanquished in a satisfying set piece. A great sense of place is invoked without much physical description; you can almost smell the salt. Very satisfying too is Keane's use of inexplicable terminology (what is a carnation rabbit?) which the reader quickly accepts as part of the language of the book and the characters. ( )
  catalpa | Jun 14, 2008 |
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In the light of an early afternoon in June, in the flat hour succeeding lunch-time, a man and a woman sat in a room overlooking the sea.
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Angel, a woman of extreme charm and warm-hearted selfishness, awaits her son's return to the fold. She is the pivot of her children's lives - for haven't they always succumbed to her smiling manipulations? Now she has plans for each of them: Slaney, her beautiful daughter (who will make the perfect match with Angel's assistance); Julian, her young hero returned from the War (though still her baby after all); and even Tiddley, her niece (who lacks the sophistication of her own children, yet will surely be delighted to hover at Angel's beck and call). But sometimes a mother's plans run less smoothly than anticipated. When Julian arrives accompanied by his new fiancée, a stylish American widow, when Slaney seems adept at romancing without a mother's guidance, and even Tiddley shows signs of rebellion, Angel must sharpen her wits and struggle to maintain her tyranny.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0860688119, Paperback)

(without asking her advice) and even her niece Tiddley will show an unexpected determination in getting on with her life.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:57:14 -0400)

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