Review of ‘Father’ by Elizabeth von Arnim

Probably the slowest-paced book I’ve ever read. Luckily the writing style is quite charming, although not nearly as wonderful as The Enchanted April.

This is a gently humorous fairytale about characters breaking free from people who control them through emotional and familial ties. The ending is suspiciously neat, with both tyrants disposed of – one deceased, one married. There are softly-presented atheist and feminist angles to the book, with the content being sweet and subversive at the same time.

I wasn’t sure about the omniscient narration. You’re told what everyone is thinking and I’m not a fan of that. The author could have focused more on Jennifer, the character we begin with. I felt that we should have got to know her better after that promising start, but she seems quite distant by the end.

I did like the book but it took me at least a week to finish (which is unusual for an average length novel). The writing was whimsically pedantic, going through the characters’ thoughts and behaviour with a fine-toothed comb.

First published in 1931. This edition published in the British Library Women Writers series in 2020, with a preface by Lucy Evans and an afterword by Simon Thomas.

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