The Tortoise and the Hare, Elizabeth Jenkins

What a delight it was to re-read this book. I happened across it, with a new introduction (2001) by Hilary Mantel, while perusing the Library shelves. I was obviously in the mood for a bit of Jane Austen: the attention to social detail, the insightful historical perspectives, the splendid nuanced writing laced with gems of observations on the human condition.

The Tortoise and the Hare is her 6th of 12 novels (published in 1954), detailing the marriage of Evelyn and Imogen Gresham (he an aging barrister, her an ingenue) trapped not only in their social standing, but in their own self interests. I love the opening sentence of Mantel’s review “Apart from a war, what could be more interestng than a marriage?” There is of course ‘another woman’, their one son, and a variety of village characters that fascinate and repel while being exquisitely and acerbically described. The post note in this edition was also extremely illuminating (Carmen Calil, 1997) who in an interview with Jenkins discovered that this novel was largely autobiographical! And while you may detest Evelyn (I certainly did), Jenkins comment “well of course you didn’t know him” slightly throws you, while fitting in completely with the story. Are you sure you is the tortoise and who is the hare? Have they changed?

If you like Jane Austen or Elizabeth Ironside, this is definitely comparable. Most enjoyable!

This is a perfect book for a rainy chilly autumn day – today!

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