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Loving (1945)

by Henry Green

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6711729,548 (3.36)81
"Loving is set in the vast hereditary house of the Tennants, an aristocratic Anglo-Irish family, but the story mainly involves their servants. The war has led to a scarcity of experienced staff, and when Eldon the butler dies, Raunce the head doorman is assigned his job. The other servants are taken aback by this irregular promotion, but lovely young Edith, a recent hire, is quite attracted to the older Raunce and a flirtation begins. And it is Edith who discovers Mrs. Tennant's daughter, whose husband is fighting at the front, in bed with a neighbor one morning, scandalizing the whole household. When the Tennants depart for England, Raunce is left in charge of the house and struggles to control its disputatious inhabitants as well as to secure the love of Edith, especially after a precious family jewel disappears. In Loving, Henry Green explores the deeply precarious nature of ordinary life against the background of the larger world at war"--… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
If you start to read this novel with heedless attention, then you’re in for a surprise: after an endless stream of dialogues (200 pages on end) you come to the conclusion that there’s barely a storyline in this book. Place of action is a country estate in Ireland, inhabited by British aristocrats, in the midst of the Second World War. Green mainly focuses on the domestic staff, a motley crew who are more or less left to their own devices by the (usually) absent owners, and do almost nothing but bicker and speak ill of each other. On the surface, the setting seems to have a high “Upstairs, Downstairs” content, and “Dowton Abbey” inevitably comes to mind as well.
But as a reader you hardly get a grip on Green's story. He alternates intimate scenes with stiff ones, occasionally lets it come to a comedy of errors (about a lost ring, for example), and especially sows confusion with peacocks that appear at the most unexpected moments. The transitions between scenes are barely noticeable, and nothing is as it seems; the scenes between the love couple Edith and Charley, for example, are apparently charming, but at the same time there appears to be an enormous distance between them.
As a reader you are constantly wrestling with the question of what the actual purpose of the story is. But that clearly turns out to be the wrong attitude. I cannot put it better than Sebastian Faulks, who wrote an introduction to this book: “The inner shape of the novel in this way imitates our experience of living: it promises pattern, then withholds it, insisting on a formless banality; it describes intensity, but as part of a grudgingly accepted monotony; it glimpses poetry, but only from the corner of its eye.” In other words: life as it is. Nicely done, indeed, but with this book Green confirms his reputation of being a “writer’s writer”. ( )
  bookomaniac | Jul 16, 2022 |
Really enjoyed this. A bittersweet upstairs downstairs story set in an Irish country house populated by (mainly) English landlords and their servants during WWII. Intrigue and gossip, laughter and suspicion and love stories. ( )
  Estragon1958 | May 23, 2022 |
For anyone not born, bred and educated in mid 20th Century England, Henry Green could be difficult to appreciate. Evelyn Waugh is under appreciated in the US too, for the same reason. Both use dialogue to define character, and a significant part of that definition is to establish where in the labyrinthine class system they actually fit. An emancipated American might say "class does not define character", but in Green's time it certainly defined the perception of character, if not by the author then by the other personae in the book. And the way they spoke was the key. ( )
  scunliffe | Jul 17, 2021 |
very british. ( )
  stravinsky | Dec 28, 2020 |
It sheds light on the lives of servants of an English estate in Ireland during WW2, and the dialogue sounds true, but it is mostly made up of rather mundane and desultory exchanges between the servants with little narrative or interior dialogue. It also took me close to half the book to become accustomed to the language. I did eventually find myself warming to the characters, but didn’t understand the high acclaim that the author has received. ( )
  Misprint | Aug 31, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
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"Loving is set in the vast hereditary house of the Tennants, an aristocratic Anglo-Irish family, but the story mainly involves their servants. The war has led to a scarcity of experienced staff, and when Eldon the butler dies, Raunce the head doorman is assigned his job. The other servants are taken aback by this irregular promotion, but lovely young Edith, a recent hire, is quite attracted to the older Raunce and a flirtation begins. And it is Edith who discovers Mrs. Tennant's daughter, whose husband is fighting at the front, in bed with a neighbor one morning, scandalizing the whole household. When the Tennants depart for England, Raunce is left in charge of the house and struggles to control its disputatious inhabitants as well as to secure the love of Edith, especially after a precious family jewel disappears. In Loving, Henry Green explores the deeply precarious nature of ordinary life against the background of the larger world at war"--

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