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chesilbeach

Bristol - The Misses Mallett by E. H. Young

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BRISTOL
 
The Misses Mallett by E. H. Young (also published as The Bridge Dividing)
 
Synopsis:
"She sat there, vividly conscious of herself, and sometimes she saw the whole room as a picture and she was part of it; sometimes she saw only those three whose lives, she felt, were practically over, for even Aunt Rose was comparatively old. She pitied them because their romance was past, while hers waited for her outside; she wondered at their happiness, their interest in their appearance, their pleasure in parties; but she felt most sorry for Aunt Rose, midway between what should have been the resignation of her stepsisters and the glowing anticipation of her niece."

 

The virtue of this quiet and accomplished piece of writing lies in its quality and in its character-drawing to summarize it would be to give no idea of its charm. Neither realism nor romance, it is a book by a writer of insight and sensibility. 

Other Bristol books:
 
A Respectable Trade by Philippa Gregory
Evelina by Fanny Burney
Junk by Melvin Burgess
Only Time Will Tell by Jeffrey Archer

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As a Bristolian, born and bred, and also an E. H. Young fan and working my way through her novels, I was delighted to have the chance to read another of her books.  For me, she is the author I most closely associate with Bristol, and I actually lived in Clifton for a while, and her descriptions of it are still recognisable today.  This is one of her earlier novels, but was the most easily accessible today to be able to read for the challenge (although I'm gradually collecting all her books from second hand bookshops :D).

 

I did enjoy reading it, although it was not her best in my opinion, and I actually think her best work comes from her next novel onwards.  What she does do so well though, is show the life of the lower and upper middle class women of the period.  It's a period of change for women after the first world war, and this story looks at the attitudes of the various generations of women in the family, yet shows both their differences and similarities.  I definitely found it tugging at my emotions at times as I became more involved in the story.  The alternate title of the book is The Bridge Dividing and this is a reference to the Clifton Suspension Bridge, but is also a metaphor for the divisions between the middle classes on the town side of the bridge, and the upper classes on the countryside, and is another way of comparing the roles and attitude of women (and men) in different aspects of society of the time, but adds to the sense of place, which I believe makes it a good fit for the challenge.

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