With my Chauffeuse out shopping today I finished reading
The front cover of my Virago Modern Classics edition, Number 234 of 1986, shows “The Opera Cloak” by William Strang.
The back cover contains the publisher’s accurate blurb on the novel,
after the last page of which is this description of the history and aims of the ground-breaking publishing house.
Not the best known of Vita Sackville-West’s works, this is the first I have read and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
It is a very well crafted book divided into four parts each devoted to interlinking the various protagonists and their perspectives. Without spoilers I cannot better the publisher’s description.
The book having first appeared in 1932, the author’s own social background is reflected in the class of the main characters and their efforts to adapt to the conflict-inducing winds of change.
The writing is easy and fluent with a straightforward vocabulary making good use of adjectives and adverbs and conveying the meaning with careful simplicity. Vita is a mistress of sentence length, able, with appropriate punctuation to write a prolonged description or to suggest much with a short line. One example that remains in my mind is “an owl hoots in the distance”, or words to that effect (I can’t remember exactly), during a late afternoon walk in a garden. With that short phrase the writer conveys the bucolic location and the time of day, without interrupting the conversation as the evening draws in. This spareness is a characteristic of her pictures of town and country; of buildings, gardens, and landscape.
Mrs Sackville-West chronicles exchanges between people in a natural way. She has a good understanding of struggles to engage; of cultural divides; and of expressed and unexpressed views, conflicts, and ambivalences. Her characterisation is complex and revealing.
Victoria Glendinning’s introduction is well-written, knowledgeable, and informative.
With sunset due sometime after 4.00 p.m. today, and then to have descended behind the buildings of Christchurch Road, I photographed it while there was still a glow in the clear sky
and pink tinges touching the few clouds to the north-east.
Elizabeth visited today with infant bedding for Flo sent by Frances. By invitation she joined us for dinner, which consisted of well-topped pizzas, Jackie’s delicious chicken stewp, and plentiful salad, with which the Culinary Queen drank Southern Ocean Western Cape Sauvignon Blanc 2021 and Elizabeth and I drank Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2021.