"Oliver said: 'I have seen the Saracens; the valley and the mountains are covered with them, and the lowlands and all the plains: great are the hosts of that strange people; we have here a very little company.' -The Song of Roland
Re-reading Eleanor Dark's The Little Company, it strikes me as much more 'modern' than it did when I first encountered it over ten years ago. (Introduction)
Autumn came early in the mountains; there was an edge to the air as soon as the sun disappeared, and the garden, which had bloomed bravely in gay if disordered profusion through the dry summer months, was now thrusting the pink and white of self-sown cosmos, and the sad, misty mauve of tall daisies through a tangle of neglected beds.
As she wrote in The Little Company:"The past will coil up behind you like a spring, it will reach over your head to link up with your future where you will find it awaiting you...[your] existence [is] an endless present moment, moving snailwise through time, carrying the past and future on its back." (Introduction)
And you can use art as a subject for debate, his mind was telling him irritably, you can make it an excuse for metaphysical hairsplitting; but when the time comes you sweep all that aside, and set up easel; or sit down at your piano, or reach for your pen.
From the book cover: "It is 1941 and the storm clouds of war gather over Australia. In the mountains outside Sydney the Massey family are reunited by their father's death. Gilbert is a successful novelist, struggling with a writer's block in middle age. A socialist and intellectual, he shares his political understanding - and fears - with his sister Marty and Marxist brother Nick. But he is locked in an unhappy marriage with a woman of little imagination and obsessive respectability, and their daughters, Prue and Virginia, are as incompatible as their parents. With the bombing of Pearl Harbour war becomes a reality. As Gilbert and his family are overtaken by the forces of history they must come to terms with their personal and public failures, and watch as the new generation inevitably mirrors the contradictions and turmoil of the old. This is the first British publication of a remarkable novel. Originally published in Australia in 1945, it combines a moving tale of family life with an acute analysis of politics and war in the 1940s."