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Who was Changed and Who was Dead (1954)

by Barbara Comyns

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4282946,457 (3.92)152
At the beginning of June the river floods, ducks swim through the drawing-room windows and Ebin Willowd rows his daughters round the submerged garden. The grandmother dresses in magenta for her seventy-first birthday whist drive and looks forward to the first prize of pate de fois gras. Later Ives the gardener leads a morose procession up river, dragging her to a funeral in a black-draped punt. The miller goes mad and drowns himself and a cottage is set alight. Villagers keep dying and at the house on a river, plates are thrown across the luncheon table and a tortoise through a window. The newspaper asks 'Who will be smitten by the fatal madness next?'… (more)
  1. 30
    Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons (laytonwoman3rd)
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    God on the Rocks by Jane Gardam (lahochstetler)
    lahochstetler: Two books set in the English countryside, both about the bizarre side of human behavior.
  3. 10
    We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (laytonwoman3rd)
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    The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (ToadsUSA)
    ToadsUSA: Both these stories create a strong nostalgia for me. There is a darkness or trouble that follows the characters but always warmth as well.
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» See also 152 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
A quick and peculiar read which was almost universally disliked by my book group. I however rather liked it - there is madness, black humour, terrible family members and some awful violence - what's not to like? I am a fan of Barbara Comyns' writing style in all the books of hers I have read. ( )
  AlisonSakai | Nov 21, 2021 |
Published at the time of COVID 19 as its main theme is some kind of plague that wipes out many people in a village. Rye bread is blamed. The whole plot is mad and revolves around an eccentric family. The humour can be described as dark and in some cases daft. ( )
  jon1lambert | Jul 27, 2021 |
Such a strange and wonderful little novel. ( )
  evano | Apr 24, 2021 |
An odd book, commendably short and very well written, felt a bit old fashioned even for it's time (1954). I guess it is Cold Comfort Farm and Gormenghast combined. ( )
  Ma_Washigeri | Jan 23, 2021 |
Nice enough writing, and kind of a weird story, but there wasn't a lot of heft. ( )
  dllh | Jan 6, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Barbara Comynsprimary authorall editionscalculated
Evenson, BrianIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Holden, UrsulaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Epigraph
Of what has been and might have been

And who was changed and who was dead

LONGFELLOW
Dedication
First words
The ducks swam through the drawing-room windows.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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At the beginning of June the river floods, ducks swim through the drawing-room windows and Ebin Willowd rows his daughters round the submerged garden. The grandmother dresses in magenta for her seventy-first birthday whist drive and looks forward to the first prize of pate de fois gras. Later Ives the gardener leads a morose procession up river, dragging her to a funeral in a black-draped punt. The miller goes mad and drowns himself and a cottage is set alight. Villagers keep dying and at the house on a river, plates are thrown across the luncheon table and a tortoise through a window. The newspaper asks 'Who will be smitten by the fatal madness next?'

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Book description
"The grandmother cried, 'Don't go yet, tell me more. What about my rose beds?' Her son seized the trumpet... and shouted down its black depths, 'Dead animals are floating everywhere. Your roses are completely covered.'"

At the beginning of June the river floods, ducks swim through the drawing-room windows and Ebin Willoweed rows his daughters round the submerged garden. The grandmother dresses in magenta for her seventy-first-birthday whist drive and looks forward to the first prize of pâté de foie gras. Later Ives the gardener leads a morose procession up river, dragging her to a funeral in a black-draped punt. The miller goes mad and drowns himself and a cottage is set alight. Villagers keep dying and at the house on the river plates are thrown across the luncheon table and a tortoise through a window. The newspaper asks "Who will be smitten by this fatal madness next?" Originally published in 1954, this strange novel with its macabre humor, speaks with Barbara Comyns' unique and magical voice.

Barbara Comyns was born in Bidford-on-Avon, Warwickshire in 1909 and now lives in Twickenham, Middlesex. She is the author of eight novels.

(-- back cover of Virago edition)
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