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Time After Time (1983)

by Molly Keane

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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275797,848 (3.71)61
Durraghglass is a beautiful mansion in Southern Ireland, now crumbling in neglect. The time is the present - a present that churns with the bizarre passions of its owners' past. The Swifts - three sisters of marked eccentricity, defiantly christened April, May and Baby June, and their only brother, one-eyed Jasper - have little in common, save vivid memories of darling Mummy, and a long lost youth peculiarly prone to acts of treachery. Into their world comes Cousin Leda from Vienna, a visitor from the past, blind but beguiling - a thrilling guest. But within days, the lifestyle of the Swifts has been dramatically overturned - and desires, dormant for so long, flame fierce and bright as ever.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
A dark comedy set on a decaying family estate in rural Ireland. Four siblings (Jasper, April, May and June) live together somewhat unhappily in the family home due to the terms of their mother's will. Each is afflicted in some way and all are set in their conflicting ways. The drama is provided by a visit from a long-lost cousin, Leda, whose brief stay becomes somewhat prolonged. Past treacheries are revealed and everyone's lives are changed.

I enjoyed reading this curious tale. None of the characters are particularly likeable and the tensions, resentments and minor acts of cruelty between the family members are excellently portrayed. The darkness is leavened by comedy and a lightness of style that makes it easy reading. ( )
  kevinashley | Jan 4, 2017 |
Time After Time is a quirky story of four siblings: Jasper and his sisters April, May, and June, all elderly and living together in their family home in Ireland. April, the oldest, is the only one who ever married, and at 74 has long been widowed. Jasper is the family cook and gardener, taking great pride in the fruits of his labor. June is a horsewoman and tends to the animals on the estate, and May is a self-styled horticulturist, president of the local garden society. Each of them also has some sort of physical affliction: Jasper lost an eye as a child; May has a deformed hand.

Suddenly into their lives comes Leda, a cousin who spent the summer with them once in their childhood. Leda is now blind, which means she can only imagine her cousins as they looked many years ago. They play up to that, even as they cattily acknowledge Leda has not aged gracefully. At first the visit seems amiable, but gradually we see Leda is there on a vindictive mission.

This setup had potential, but the characters did not seem genuine to me and at some point I stopped caring much about how the central conflict would be resolved. It's not a bad book, but it's not Molly Keane's best. ( )
  lauralkeet | Jul 30, 2015 |
I'm not sure exactly what to make of this book, a rather dark comedy centered around decaying Irish gentility. The four elderly Swift siblings--Jasper and his fluffily named sisters, April, May, and June--live rather uncomfortably together, doomed by their domineering Mummy's will to share the decrepit family estate. Baiting one another seems to be their primary form of entertainment. Each has a particular handicap and a particular domain. Jasper, who lost an eye as a child due to Baby June's carelessness, rules in the kitchen and tends to his horticultural pursuits, often accompanied by Anselm, a lovely young monk. April, the only married Swift, now a widow, is deaf and spends her time coddling her dog and pursuing new health and beauty regimens. May, whose hand is deformed, presides over the local flower arranging club and restores Victorian doodads. And June, who didn't receive much of an education, lives for her smelly dog Tiny, her horse, and her pregnant pig. When their Jewish cousin Leda--who they thought had been killed in the Holocaust arrives on their doorstep, unexpectedly blind, the Swifts' world is thrown into chaos. Leda, it seems, is looking for a permanent residence; but she has revenge in mind.

This is the first novel by Molly Keane that I've read, and I have several others on my shelves. I will surely give them a chance. Although I can't say that I loved Time After Time, it had it's moments and kept me interested overall. ( )
  Cariola | May 25, 2012 |
In Time After Time Molly Keane extends an invitation to an Irish country house. It’s an invitation that I am very glad that I accepted.

The house was once beautiful, but it has fallen upon hard times. The kitchen still offers a welcome, but the cooks and kitchen maids who brought it to life have long since departed, and even the Aga is losing the will to go on.

The kitchen is Jasper’s domain. Well actually the whole house and estate is his, but he has to share it with his three elderly sisters. One widow and two spinsters, all left a right of residence by darling Mummie, whose wishes none of her children would ever question.

He’s an aesthete and a dreamer, and he’s also bright enough to know that whoever rules the kitchen rules the house. Well they would if they didn’t have to contend with his sisters.

April, the only one to have married, is now widowed, and in her mind that places her way above her siblings. But her husband is long gone and now her life centres around her clothes, her beauty treatments, and her home comforts…

May’s life is filled with domestic arts. She is president of the Flower Arrangers’ Guild for year, she is a dab hand at making pictures from scraps of tweed, wool and sprigs of heather…

And Baby June is the practical one, managing the farm, always outside, always with something important to do…

Each of the Swifts has a cross to bear: Jasper lost an eye, April is stone deaf, May has a deformed hand, and Baby June, well Baby June is rather slow… And each of them tries to fill their lives with the important things they do, with possession, with the cats and dogs who are so cosseted in the absence of children. They live together, bickering like children because they are unhappy with their lives.

The portraits that Molly Keane paints of the Swift siblings as they move through their lives are so rich, so vivid and so wonderfully detailed.

Grotesques. Realism. Comedy. Tragedy. Only Molly Keane can balance all of those elements to such fine effect.

I laughed, I cried, and I wanted to scream at them to admit that they were unhappy, that there lives didn’t have to be ruled by what their mother had thought in a different age, that they could change their lives. But I knew that they wouldn’t have listened, and that even if they had they wouldn’t have believed me.

The pictures change when cousin Leda comes to visit. As a child she was that little bit different, and the Swifts didn’t know quite how to react. To pay court or to close ranks. And it is just the same now that Leda is a widow and has lost her sight. How like children they all are.

Leda says things, does things, crosses lines that the Swifts never would. And of course there are consequences. When finally she leaves they realise that life will never be the same again.

It’s still comic, it’s still tragic, it’s still grotesque, and it’s still real.

Now that I have left too I miss the whole household. As is so often the case with Molly Keane’s creations, I really wouldn’t want to meet them but they are quite wonderful to observe.

A wonderful entertainment! ( )
3 vote BeyondEdenRock | Feb 4, 2011 |
The four Swift siblings live together in their crumbling Irish manor house. Each has a disability he or she must compensate for, and each take turns insulting and belittling the others and revenging both past and present slights. Then the long lost cousin arrives to be waited upon and gather the secrets of the Swifts so that she can reveal them in the most appalling manor.
This is a book about nasty people being nasty to each other. The only good thing about it is that in the end they all get theirs. ( )
  EmScape | Apr 28, 2009 |
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Molly Keaneprimary authorall editionscalculated
Donoghue, EmmaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Jasper Swift, owner although not sole possessor of Durraghglass, was back in the kitchen where he belonged.
I was thirteen when Time After Time (1983) was published, and I hated it. (Introduction)
Quotations
[Jasper] looked into a two-pound marmalade pot and turned from it quite pale with annoyance.

"Now who has taken my Biro? I'd like to know who has been in the kitchen and taken the kitchen Biro."

"Ah! Biro!" She was abreast of the problem. "Every Biro in the house is dry. It's a contagious disease. I tried the library and the drawing room and the gents' loo, all the same story. Here's a Biro. I found one here at last."

"My own personal red private pen! How dare you? Damn you."
The ladies made their polite thanks and tactfully early departure. Their comments on the afternoon went much the same as always. "Poor Miss Swift - she shouldn't take it so seriously"; `I could have cried for that poor little hand"; "Oh, it makes me so nervous, I never look near it"; "And what did you think of that idea for a centre-piece?"; "Frankly, in very poor taste"; "And what about the big house?"; "All that tat and peeling paint?" Unimpressed by other people's lifestyles, and filled with kind thoughts, they enjoyed agreeing with each other along every mile of their homeward roads.
... The thought of a bath and a little lie-down were uppermost in Alys's mind as she waited for May to say her good-byes. She liked May more and more at the prospect of her imminent departure. "Let me put some of those things in your car," she said.
`"No hurry," said May easily, "April isn't here yet".
`"April?" Alys's voice was frail in dismay.
`No sense of time," May sounded quite indulgent.
`Well, do come in and have a drink - if you don't think it's too early."
`"Never too early for cocktails," May quoted cheerily.
"Only sherry, I'm afraid. Perhaps Elizabeth has put it in the library."
Lady Alys ... had soft, well-taught manners, through which she was as quick to destroy as to please. "Oo-oo," she cooed out suddenly, "do I hear a car? I doooo - it's the first of the milk-in-firsts arriving."
"Darling May," Alys put a small glass of sherry into her hand, "her lecture was bliss. I don't know how she kept it up for so long."
`"Just practice," May said. "Two hours means nothing to me. They do love it so. I get inspired."
"Yes."
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Durraghglass is a beautiful mansion in Southern Ireland, now crumbling in neglect. The time is the present - a present that churns with the bizarre passions of its owners' past. The Swifts - three sisters of marked eccentricity, defiantly christened April, May and Baby June, and their only brother, one-eyed Jasper - have little in common, save vivid memories of darling Mummy, and a long lost youth peculiarly prone to acts of treachery. Into their world comes Cousin Leda from Vienna, a visitor from the past, blind but beguiling - a thrilling guest. But within days, the lifestyle of the Swifts has been dramatically overturned - and desires, dormant for so long, flame fierce and bright as ever.

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In this ironic and darkly comic novel, four aging Anglo-Irish siblings, each physically and psychologically damaged, live together at their isolated, crumbling family estate near Cork. Still emotionally fixed in childhood, the Swift sisters and brother lead separate lives at cross-purposes from one another. The unexpected arrival of their cousin Leda, whom they had thought dead, introduces an element of menace to this dysfunctional household. Leda bears a hidden grudge from their childhood and her intentions are not benign. The author is a master of the indirect and, although this isn't a mystery, keeps you guessing all the way to the conclusion.

VIRAGO EDITION:
The Swifts - three sisters of marked eccentricity, defiantly christened April, May and baby June, and their only brother, one-eyed Jasper - have little in common, save vivid memories of their darling mother and a long lost youth particularly prone to acts of treachery.
Into their world comes cousin Leda from Vienna, a visitor from the past, blind but beguiling: a thrilling guest. Within days, the lifestyle of the Swifts has been dramatically overturned - and desires, dormant for so long, flame fierce and bright like never before.
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