Tag Archives: Maeve Brennan

The Visitor – Maeve Brennan

Sometimes it’s nice to throw caution to the wind and just pick up a book completely at random from your shelves. Its one you have been meaning to read for quite some time your not sure whether you are going to like it or not but you just fancy giving it a whirl on a whim. This is what led me to reading ‘The Visitor’ by Maeve Brennan last week, and at only 80 pages long this seemed like quite an easy risk to take. I wasn’t sure what to expect and was pleasantly surprised by a rather dark and harrowing tale of families and death.

I don’t know if it’s the same for everyone but when I go back to the area I grew up in I always have a huge bundle of nostalgia on arrival and so you sort of dream of going back and assuming everything would be the same, only of course it wouldn’t be would it? It’s this predicament that Anastacia King finds herself in ‘The Visitor’ when she returns to her grandmother’s house in Ireland, in which she grew up, after six years of living in Paris with her mother. Anastacia arrives in the hope of finding some family solace in her grandmother from recent events, only soon she comes to realise this will not be a long stay as her grandmother only wants this to be a visit and nothing more.

As the story unfolds we see snippets of Anastasia’s childhood, the fraught relationships between her mother and father and mother and grandmother, and soon learn as family secrets start to emerge from under the carpet just what grudges Anastasia has unwittingly had thrown upon her from her parents behaviour and how coming back brings everything to the fore. There is also a very sad tale of love lost that Brennan brings in with the only other visitor at the house Miss Kilbride, but I shall leave that one for you to discover.

Maeve Brennan weaves a heartbreaking tale (which is set around Christmas so if you haven’t read it that might be the perfect time) written in a completely melodrama free style. It could have been very easy to have scenes of high drama running throughout instead there are scenes where its what is not being said, or what is quietly being spoken, which give the book its emotional weight and that is an incredibly difficult thing to pull off I think. There is one outburst scene actually but it’s all the more powerful for the demure quietness of the book, despite all that’s going on, up to that point and the silence that follows is even more felt.

Written in the 1940’s this book was not long discovered and published swiftly. I have to admit that until I saw this book over a year ago in a charity shop for I had never heard of the author let alone the book, yet the cover and blurb (and possibly the fact it was 50p) drew me in and I am so pleased they did. I am definitely putting her other works on my Christmas list, they aren’t easy to get it seems, as any author that can do so much in so little words and pages is an author that I want to read much more of. 9/10

The ending did flummox me a little hence why this book didn’t get a full ten out of ten, if anyone has read this can you email me about the ending rather than comment as I wouldn’t want to spoil it for anyone else! I am wondering why someone like Persephone or Virago hasn’t picked these books up; I think they would be perfect for them and their readership. So who else has read ‘The Visitor’? Has anyone read anything else by Maeve Brennan?

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Filed under Atlantic Books, Maeve Brennan, Review

November Novella’s

Now I know that I said a few days ago that I wouldn’t be joining in any more challenges but rules are made for breaking aren’t they? I saw on Lizzy’s blog that she was joining in with Bibliophiles “The November Novella Challenge” and the temptation to read a selection of books I wouldn’t normally reach out for, though I have now found I have read quite a few unwittingly, seemed too great and so before I knew it I had signed up. Before I went gaily whizzing off into the internet ether or ran full blaze to the local charity shops in the hunt, which is what I would normally do, I stopped and did some research instead.

I really wanted to know how long a novella actually is and unhelpfully Wikipedia only gives you the length in words. I don’t know about you but I tend not to count the number of words in a book as it sort of distracts you from the reading of it. I decided to go with the Novellas.org definition and count a novella being between 60 – 150 pages long. I also saw they had a list of top novellas which I wrote down only to be shocked by how many I have already read, not loads but more than I thought…

Notes on Novella's

I then made some big decisions. I would definitely do the challenge but there had to be some rules as I have already set myself the goal of reading books that take my fancy, no planned reading and also buying less books (though as you will see from a post later in the week this has already gone down the swanny somewhat after being up north and having a binge) so I needed rules. Well actually there were only two. First rule had to be that I wouldn’t set a goal of how many I would read or an order, I would simply dip in and out of them. The second was that I could only read novella’s I already owned, which seeing as I had read most of those listed was a bit of a pain until I discovered I actually owned quite a few in my endless TBR.

Novellas to hand

  • The Visitor – Maeve Brennan
  • The Skeleton in the Cupboard – Alice Thomas Ellis
  • The White Castle – Orhan Pamuk
  • The Girls of Slender Means – Muriel Spark
  • Fire in the Blood – Irene Nemirovsky
  • A Study in Scarlet – Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Lady Susan – Jane Austen
  • Death in Venice – Thomas Mann

I actually think I own more than this but these were the books that were to hand and I couldn’t go ferreting around forever as I would loose reading time (and as I haven’t yet started 1984 for book group tomorrow I need to be reading lots today) I may come across more as I wander through my TBR shelves and boxes who knows, but the main idea is no pressure. So let’s see how I do. I was going to try and sneakily say We Have Always Lived at the Castle by Shirley Jackson was the first November Novella but actually I read it in October.

Is anyone else joining in with this, can I tempt any of you? What have your experiences with the novella been? Have I chosen a good diverse mix? Which ones have you read in the past and loved or loathed? Do you like novellas or not? Would you much rather read a book you can get engrossed in than ones that’s concise?

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