Yet another Godden novel. And I’ve still got at least two more on my unread books pile!
Even though her parents’ divorce has been finalized, Caddie cannot accept it. She convinces her older brother, Hugh, to accompany her to Italy in hopes of stopping her adulterous mother’s remarriage and to bring her back to England. Again, a sort of coming of age story. And an agonizing look at how divorce tears a family apart, what it does not only to the children but also to their mother, Fanny, who thinks she has found perfect happiness in her new life and discovers the painful consequences of doing wrong. Once in Italy, Caddie and Hugh team up with Pia, the daughter of their prospective step-father, and the battle lines are drawn. Of course, as with all battles, no one emerges unscathed.
Reading the sections from Fanny’s point of view was tough at times—all the justifications and self-deceptions and her willful blindness at how much her actions have hurt her family. Not surprisingly, she is completely self-centered and when he children show up she doesn’t see their pain but is pleased that they have run away to me. The most willful of her self-deceptions involved the ruby ring that her lover gives to her. She imagines its red glow is somehow related to the Presence lamp in a church she stumbles into. She convinces herself that her adulterous love is somehow sacred, a sacrament even. But a lovely juxtaposition on Godden’s part. The scene in which Fanny stumbles into the church actually has echoes of a similar scene in This House of Brede in which Phillipa stumbles upon a Catholic Church, though with a very different result.
Much beautiful Italian scenery and a wonderful scene with an Italian priest too. And I absolutely loved the scene where Caddie finds herself in La Scala.
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