Devoted Ladies – Molly Keane (M. J. Farrell) (1934)

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This was one was from the Virago Modern Classic series, books which have been on one of my shelves for Way Too Long. Choosing a Virago can sometimes mean an uncomfortable read in that the characters (and the stories) can be rather prickly. Perhaps that’s only me? This one was no different as most of the characters were thoroughly unlikeable and mean to each other (both men and women equally were mean to just about everyone else), and yet, despite this, I almost enjoyed this unpleasant and rather sour read in the end.

Jane and Jessica are together and have been together long enough to be an accepted couple in their circle of friends. However, Jessica is a very boorish and spiteful person, especially to the person that she supposedly loves – Jane. Jane, in turn, is quiet and scared of Jessica’s sharpened tongue, but is resigned to spending her life in this abusive relationship. Any efforts to escape from Jessica have never ended up well, so perhaps safer to stay? The unhappy couple are surrounded by a small grouping of sycophantic friends and servants who continue to play their lives out whilst pretty much ignoring the couple’s dysfunction until one day, a friend brings new blood to the fold in the form of a successful Irish business man and farmer, George Playfair. (There’s some irony in the last name.)

An affair grows between the quiet Jane and Playfair, and when Playfair is in an accident one day, it is enough to ignite the ember which sets into motion a dual of the hearts for Jane. Who will win and get to keep Jane’s heart? For surely she is not strong enough to choose of her own accord.

I’m not going to give the plot away, but suffice to say (and this being a Virago), the end is not all fluffy and warm. Nevertheless, it was a very satisfying conclusion to come across and once I’d finished the read, I closed the book with a contented sigh. Despite such detestable characters, this was a good read – prickly but good.

 

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