The Atlantic Bookshelf: Conclusion

A wrap up of book reviews from Edward Weeks

WOMEN, the saying goes, are more observant than men, and the attribute is supposed to lend a special distinction to feminine fiction. Certainly observation plays a leading part in V. Sackville-West’s new novel, The Edwardians (Doubleday, Doran. $2.50), a book which I read in large gulps and finished with regret. The story centres in Chevron, which is the author’s pseudonym for Knole, the most majestic country house in England, the home of the Sackvilles since Elizabeth’s day, and, incidentally, where V. Sackville-West herself was born and brought up. The Edwardians pictures the ample and privileged life that went on in such country houses in the heyday of Edward the Seventh a life, we are shown, that was coming to its end just as surely as the war and the Labor Government drew near. The narrative itself is slender and rather obvious. But it does n’t matter; what does matter is the fine-drawn characters and the incidents which, to the last detail, give life and power to that great ark of a house, with its seven acres of roof, its three hundred and sixty-five rooms and seven courts. Knole to-day is half-museum; you can walk its historic corridors for a shilling or so; you can read of its past in Virginia Woolf’s Orlando. But neither pleasure will bring the huge pile so surely alive as this novel by one who knew it as home. V. Sackville-West is a close personal friend of Mrs. Woolf’s; it is she, indeed, whose photograph appears so frequently in Orlando. Knowing this, I looked for and seemed to detect passages (especially when the author intrudes herself upon the scene) which appeared to be derived from the older novelist. But this is a minor plaint ; I mention it because critics are supposed to find something to grumble about.

THE BOOKSHELF’S List of prominent books in 1929-1930 will be sent free on request to the Editor