Photo copyright Jon Crispin 2011.

Photo copyright Jon Crispin 2011

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Who said that?

Ivy Compton-Burnett has one of the most intriguing and baffling styles of writing that I have ever encountered. Written almost entirely in dialogue minus tags or attributions, the book challenges the reader to follow along.

Trying to sort out the dialogue of nine (!) children, their parents, grandparents, family friends (I think) and assorted nannies, nurses, and staff, including one child who refers to himself by name in the third person, dares the reader to follow the thread. If you didn't like Wolf Hall, you will hate Parents and Children. If you had no trouble realizing that every time Mantel wrote 'he,' she meant Cromwell, you might be able to wend your way through the thickets of dialogue and find the treasure at the center of this labyrinth of dialogue.

The effort is worth it, though, and the payoff is huge. I was amused that Compton-Burnett is one of the writers offered to Queen Elizabeth in Alan Bennett's novella The Uncommon Reader. I hope Her Majesty enjoyed Compton-Burnett as much as I do.

When I finished the book, I immediately started reading again, and when I finish this time, I will be going back to the well for another book to savor.

Ivy Compton-Burnett DBE 1884-1969

No comments:

Post a Comment