HomeGroupsTalkMoreZeitgeist
Search Site
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

The Gate of Angels by Penelope Fitzgerald
Loading...

The Gate of Angels (original 1990; edition 1998)

by Penelope Fitzgerald

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7722921,994 (3.73)55
It is 1912, and at Cambridge University the modern age is knocking at the gate. In lecture halls and laboratories, the model of a universe governed by the mind of God is at last giving way to something wholly rational, a universe governed by the laws of physics. To Fred Fairly, a junior fellow at the College of St. Angelicus, this comes as a great comfort. Science, he is certain, will soon explain everything. Mystery will be routed by reason, and the demands of the soul will be seen for what they are-a distraction and an illusion. Into Fred's orderly life comes Daisy, with a bang-literally. One moment the two are perfect strangers, fellow cyclists on a dark country road; the next, they are casualties of a freakish accident, occupants of the same warm bed. Fred has never been so close to a woman before, and none so pretty, so plainspoken, and yet so-mysterious. Is she a manifestation of Chaos, or is she a sign of another kind of Order?… (more)
Member:DavidGlover
Title:The Gate of Angels
Authors:Penelope Fitzgerald
Info:Mariner Books (1998), Edition: 1, Paperback, 176 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:None

Work details

The Gate of Angels by Penelope Fitzgerald (1990)

Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 55 mentions

English (27)  Spanish (2)  All languages (29)
Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
The thing that I liked most about Penelope Fitzgerald's "Offshore" was its marvelous fresh-air quality. The fact that its story revolved around two young girls and a cast of half-bohemian, very British eccentrics probably helped, but that one seemed admirably straightforward and meticulously composed in equal measure. "The Gate of Angels" doesn't have that quality, but then, it's a very different sort of book. Here, Fitzgerald's characters are defined not by their relative freedom but by the restraints that have been placed on their lives: structural poverty, in Daisy's case, and the thousand regulations and social customs that govern life at Cambridge, in Fred's. Her tone may be somewhat ironic, but Fitzgerald's description Daisy's desperately impoverished upbringing and her narrow escape from it is as good a description of the structural factors that held down London's working class during the first half of the twentieth century as you'd get from most historians. This, along with the ghost story that Fitzgerald uses as a plot point but decides to include in the text, seemingly on a whim, might be the most successful parts of this novel.

I liked the rest well enough -- and admit that the book has a cracking first sentence -- but didn't really love it. Fitzgerald may be trying to draw some parallel in "The Gate of the Angels" between the imperceptible atomic science with which Fred is peripherally involved and the unknowable mechanisms of roamance, but this comparison either isn't drawn particularly well or its subtleties were simply beyond me. It's not that I'd call "The Gate of the Angels" an unserious or unsuccessful novel, but I'd warn readers with decidedly unromantic dispositions to avoid it entirely. In its physical and temporal setting (rural England, 1912) and the sense it gives the reader that an older, Victorian Britain is slipping away, this one reminded me of Forster's "A Room With A View." The author drops a few hints about the coming storm that would break in 1914, but doesn't reveal anything about these characters' ultimate fates. The proudly romantic conclusion of Forster's novel was decidedly optimistic about the coming century. "The Gate of Angels" keeps its characters blissfully ignorant about what's coming next. Maybe that's for the best. ( )
  TheAmpersand | Dec 24, 2019 |
I didn't warm to this story. I might characterize it as British magical realism, which is about as enticing as British cooking. The events of the story and their timings were unbelievable and unrealistic, Odd characters jumping in and out inexplicably.When these incongruous things happened it would just take me out of the narrative. Moreover, the ending was left open to the reader to make his own conclusion to the story which I felt was rather a cheat on the part of the author, I want to hear her story not mine. ( )
  amaraki | Sep 13, 2019 |
Going on what the blurb says, The gate of angels is an academic novel and a romance set in 1912 Cambridge. Also, it apparently features a character based on M. R. James, whose early 20thC horror stories I will always have a soft spot for. And an academic novel and a romance set in 1912 Cambridge is indeed a good way to describe this novel. The two main characters, Fred Fairly and Daisy Saunders meet by (literal) accident, and since the former is a Physics fellow at a tiny Cambridge College, and the latter is a working-class nurse-in-training, there is the expected attraction of opposites. Well, kind of. The book never specifies that that is what’s going on, but merely implies it.

In fact, Fitzgerald leaves lots unsaid in this book: she juxtaposes sections that may differ in tone, location, sometimes even genre, and leaves it up to the reader to connect them -- the well-read reader, who knows how romances and academic novels typically develop. Characterization is bare-bones, mainly done through dialogue and Omniscient-Narrator commentary, only hinting at a more coherent personality in the background -- all this is again to be assembled by the reader. I imagine that this may feel disjointed or even unfinished to some, but reading one section in the spirit of the others worked wonderfully for me (or perhaps I merely like the way my own imagination works). Carrying over the subtle silliness and absurdity from some of the sections and treating the novel as though that is the kind of heightened reality in which it is set makes the whole thing come together beautifully.

For silly and absurd is what this novel is -- quietly and occasionally at first, but the mainly straightforward romance plot, which runs so much on readers’ expectations of both romances and academic settings, acquires more and more sudden absurdities and tongue-in-cheek moments until it reaches a crescendo and turns into what I unrepentantly call “uproariously funny”. I giggle-laughed with delight repeatedly.

It turns out there is a character based on M. R. James in there -- a pipe-smoking mediaeval palaeographer who writes ghost stories in his spare time and is fond of reading them out loud to colleagues at various Colleges. Fitzgerald even includes her take on one of his ghost stories -- a case of sudden genre shift, at which point the novel finally comes into its own as an unapologetically funny book. Seriously, the crowning moment of awesome in this book is a reference to another writer’s style -- I love it when media can pull that off. (Does it work if you haven’t read M. R. James? Totally! The genre shift even comes with foreshadowing!) After that, the book coasts to an ending on a wave of good-will.

Penelope Fitzgerald has an exquisitely calibrated sense of humour, and she puts it to excellent use in The gate of Angels. I absolutely loved this book: it’s going to be hard to beat this one in terms of liveliness and shameless fun. ( )
  Petroglyph | Jan 7, 2019 |
I haven't read any Penelope Fitzgerald before, and was almost put off by the beginning of this book, which is a little twee, but the Pearl Rule carried me past my first reaction, to good effect.

This little comedy takes place in 1912, divided in its setting between an obscure celibate Cambridge college and a less obscure poor section of London. Fred, attempting to study modern physics, is appointed to a post in the college by a professor who believes that the only physics we can know is what we can observe. Consequently, modern theories about the atom are dangerously speculative.

Let me tell you what is going to happen, over the coming centuries, to atomic research.
There will be many apparent results, some useful, some spectacular, some, very possibly, unpleasant. But since the whole basis of the present research is unsound, cracks will appear in the structure one by one. The physicists will begin by constructing models of the atom, in fact there are some very nice ones in the Cavendish at the moment. Then they'll find that the models won't do, because they would only work if atoms really existed, so they'll replace them by mathematical terms which can be stretched to fit. As a result, they'll find that since they're dealing with what they can't observe, they can't measure it, and so we shall hear that all that can be said is that the position is probably this and the energy is probably that. The energy will be beyond their comprehension, so they'll be driven to the theory that it comes and goes more or less at random. Now their hypotheses will be at the beginning of collapse and they will have to pull out more and more bright corners. There will be elementary particles which are too strange to have anything but curious names, and anti-matter which ought to be there, but isn't. By the end of the century they will have to admit that the laws they are supposed to have discovered seem to act in a profoundly disorderly way.


A pretty good description of what happened in physics in the 20th century, as predicted by a denier, wouldn't you say? Of course, Fitzgerald has the advantage of writing in 1990.

Fred's comic activities in College, and at home at his father's Rectory where his mother and sisters have flung themselves into the Suffrage Movement, are contrasted to those of Daisy, growing up exceedingly poor in London, who, after several secretarial jobs in which she found herself holding off her employers' advances, decides to become a nurse. Through a variety of mishaps, she finds herself in Cambridge, where she and Fred collide, literally. And thereby hangs this comic romance, one part physics, one part accident, one part social movement. I found it a delightful little entertainment. ( )
1 vote ffortsa | Sep 21, 2018 |
I enjoyed this comedy of manners; it was like a more accessible Jane Austen novel. But I don't get all the hype. A nice little boy-meets-girl story, well told. Good, quietly funny at times, but not special. ( )
  LynnB | Dec 30, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review

» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Penelope Fitzgeraldprimary authorall editionscalculated
Hensher, PhilipIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Krüger, ChristaÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
Dedication
First words
How could the wind be so strong, so far inland, that cyclists coming into the town in the late afternoon looked more like sailors in peril?
Quotations
Fred took a few sheets of the college paper. He shook his fountain pen to see how much ink was left in it, and wrote: "Dear Miss Saunders".
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS
Canonical LCC

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English

None

It is 1912, and at Cambridge University the modern age is knocking at the gate. In lecture halls and laboratories, the model of a universe governed by the mind of God is at last giving way to something wholly rational, a universe governed by the laws of physics. To Fred Fairly, a junior fellow at the College of St. Angelicus, this comes as a great comfort. Science, he is certain, will soon explain everything. Mystery will be routed by reason, and the demands of the soul will be seen for what they are-a distraction and an illusion. Into Fred's orderly life comes Daisy, with a bang-literally. One moment the two are perfect strangers, fellow cyclists on a dark country road; the next, they are casualties of a freakish accident, occupants of the same warm bed. Fred has never been so close to a woman before, and none so pretty, so plainspoken, and yet so-mysterious. Is she a manifestation of Chaos, or is she a sign of another kind of Order?

No library descriptions found.

Book description
It is 1912, and at Cambridge University the modern age is knocking at the gate. In lecture halls and laboratories, the model of a universe governed by the Mind of God is at last giving way to something wholly rational, a universe governed by the Laws of Physics. To Fred Fairly, a junior fellow at the College of St. Angelics, this comes as a great comfort. Science, he is certain, will soon explain everything. Mystery will be routed by reason, and the demands of the soul will be seen for what they are - a distraction and an illusion. Into Fred's orderly life comes Daisy, with a bang - literally. One moment the two are perfect strangers, fellow cyclists on a dark country road; the next, they are casualties of a freakish accident, occupants of the same warm bed. Fred has never been so close to a women before, surely none so pretty, so plainspoken, and yet so-mysterious. Who is this Daisy Saunders? he wonders. Why have I met her? Is this a manifestation of Chaos, or is it a sign of another kind of Order? As the smitten Fred pursues these questions, Penelope Fitzgerald suggests that scientists can still be mistaken-and that soul must still be answered-even in this age of the atom. (9780395848388)
Haiku summary

Popular covers

Quick Links

Rating

Average: (3.73)
0.5
1 4
1.5 2
2 3
2.5
3 35
3.5 21
4 48
4.5 4
5 27

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 162,557,190 books! | Top bar: Always visible