Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Lolly Willowes

Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner
Sylvia Townsend Warner
New York Review Books Classics

In Lolly Willowes, an ageing spinster rebels against her role as the universal aunt, at everybodys beck and call. How she escapes all that "—to have a life of one's own, not an existence doled out to you by others", is the theme of this story.

You know that moment whilst reading a book where you suddenly realise that you are deeply besotted with it.  This happened to me today about 50 pages into 'Lolly Willowes' and stayed with me all the way to the end.

Laura 'Lolly' Willowes is, at the beginning of the book, a young woman living a quiet and introverted life in the family home with her much loved father.  His death sends her to London to live with her brother's family where she slowly loses her identity to the new benign persona of 'Aunt Lolly' finding an expression of herself only in the luxurious flowers with which she decorates her room until in middle age she decides on the spur of the moment to move to the small Chiltern village of Great Mop and become a witch.

Warner's first novel is a fantastic and fantastical exploration of the lot of a young unmarried woman in the early decades of the 20th century.  As the century unfolds we slowly see Laura take increasing control of her life and break free from patriarchal, familial and social restraints as the novel does the same and becomes as much a meditation on religion and the very nature of Satan as it is on the lot of women and it is glorious.

Beautifully written, delicately paced and deliciously insightful. I adored this book.

Buy it here -  Lolly Willowes


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