Mary's Library

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Sybille Bedford

I’ve found a fine old novel by a writer hitherto unknown to me. I can’t recall where I heard about the book or the author, but I checked the Spokane Library and the book was there so I requested it. It’s called A LEGACY and it was written by Sybille Bedford and published in 1956. It takes place in pre-WW I Germany.

It came home from the library yesterday along with some other, more immediately compelling books like the new biography, HERSHEY: Milton S Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams (2006), by Michael D’Antonio; an E X Ferrars mystery, LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT (1978); and THE WORKS: Anatomy of a City (2005), by Kate Ascher. The last, by the way, is a fascinating (and excellently illustrated) analysis of the transportation, communication, sewer, garbage, and power systems of NY City.

I picked up A LEGACY this morning because I was immobilized with Miss Woodhouse in my lap (I’m too soft-hearted to move a sleeping cat) and the book was to hand.

To begin with those testimonials you find in the front of paperbacks are a little out of the ordinary. Here are the first two:

“One of the very best novels I have ever read.” – Nancy Mitford

“A book of entirely delicious quality.” – Evelyn Waugh

Miford and Waugh think the book is first rate? For me this is like Ted Williams flacking Corn Flakes to a 12-year-old.

And I think they may be right. The novel grabbed me from the first paragraph and won’t let go. From the book cover:

“The Kaiser’s Germany is the setting of this, Sybille Bedford’s first and best-known novel, in which three families – one from solid, upholstered Jewish Berlin, the others from the somnolent, agrarian Catholic south – become comically, tragically, irrevocably intertwined. ‘Each family,’ writes the author, ‘stood confident of being able to go on with what was theirs, while in fact they were playthings, often victims, of the now united Germany and what was brewing therein.’”


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