This classic of English Literature breaks all the rules of writing a novel; a bold step at the time of its creation. Viewpoints come and go, often without any real introduction, and sometimes within a paragraph. Passages develop and proceed, often without any indication of who we’re listening to in their internal dialogue, though we do eventually find out. Time is elastic and fragmented, so that narrative, such as it is, frequently appears disjointed.
So, this is not a book for the faint-hearted, not a book for the lover of plain stories told from a simple point of view. The reader’s expected to invest thought, attention, and concentration to appreciate this work.
There’s poetry here. Substantial character analysis and development, social comment, and some subversive irony.
But, written as a description of the day during which a social event, a party for the upper middle class, is organised and attended, it inevitably dwells on trivialities and unconscious prejudices only those of that class would consider of any substance.
There were passages I found boring, others irritating in their banality, and others that held no meaning for me whatever. But there were also passages that delivered supremely well-drawn character studies, insights into the lives of strangers, even raising empathy on occasion.
What the book did for me was to confirm my suspicions that the wealthy, especially those born into comfort, have absolutely no idea what poverty entails. Their dismissal of servants and the underclass is shown here to be based on total ignorance of their lives. But the book also showed me a different way of getting under the skin of the reader, entering into the consciousness of those strangers who read our books.
It’s an odd read, demanding, but giving enough positive experience to reward the perseverance needed to finish it. I found it frustrating and engaging, patchy, occasionally confusing, sometimes incomprehensible, and strangely moving here and there. It failed, however, to make me eager to read more work by the author.
[Any review is a personal opinion. No reviewer can represent the view of anyone else. The best we can manage is an honest reaction to any given book.]