Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Back to the Classics Challenge 2020: The Winds of Heaven



Weirdly, working from home not been conducive to my on-line life. I apologize that I haven’t been reading and commenting on my friend’s posts in the last couple months. Moving forward, I will be better and get back to the swing of things because I do miss it!

I have been reading, however, and for the Back to the Classics category “A classic with nature in the title”, I read The Winds of Heaven by Monica Dickens in my lovely Persephone edition, pictured. The disinterested storytelling style of The Winds of Heaven reminded me a tad of Dorothy Whipple, another Persephone author, but I think I’ve enjoyed the Whipple novels I’ve read so far more.  I found the quiet interludes compared to the melodramatic moments a little too uneven for my tastes. Despite this quibble, I really did like the novel and will read more from Dickens in future.

First published in 1955, the story is about Louise, who is widowed at 50 something. Louise’s husband bullied her and left her with only debts upon his death. Since she cannot afford to support herself, she is shunted between the homes of her self-centered grown daughters in the spring, summer and fall while spending the winters in Portsmouth on the charity of a school friend who runs a hotel. Louise’ only occasional solace is her awkward granddaughter Ellen, her son-in-law Frank and her newfound friend, Mr. Disher.

Her eldest daughter, Miriam, lives in upper middle-class comfort in a London suburb with the aforementioned Ellen and two younger grandchildren, who are clearly more favored by their parents.  Louise’s youngest daughter, Eva, is an aspiring actress who lives in a London flat and her middle child Anne, lives with her farmer-husband in the country.  All three daughters see their mother as a burden, even though all three have space enough to allow her to live with them permanently. Louise longs to live independently, but that would require her taking a job, which is an anathema to her daughters. They don’t want her around, but they also don’t want the shame of their mother having to work for a living. 

It’s all very bleak with a few moments of brightness for Louise. Louise’ interactions with Ellen are touching, particularly since it is clear that Ellen sympathizes with her Grandmother because she too is unwanted. And Louise’s relationship with Mr. Disher is delightful, from the moment then meet by chance in a tea shop and she learns he is a salesman by day but in his spare time a writer of lurid, pulp fiction paperbacks. I think that Dickens excelled in her characterization here, which is why it was sometimes so sad to read, because the reader really feels for the characters when they suffer. But I will say, without spoiling things, that the book was satisfactorily resolved for me. 

7 comments:

  1. I love reading your reviews of these classics because you always introduce me to new authors! :)

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    1. Thanks for the comment Lark! Glad to be of service. :)

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  2. Hi Ruthiella, I have been fascinated by Persephone Books for quite some time but have yet to read one and your review of the Winds of Heaven makes we want to start with this book. I sense with what Louise has experienced in her life there are alot of lessons, about standing up for oneself and whi one's real friens are.

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    1. Thanks for the comment Kathy! I admit, I was first drawn to Persephone books out of curiosity too! If you want to try something lighter, I really liked Miss Buncle's Book and Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day which are both available from other publishers as well, I believe.

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  3. I've heard of Monica Dickens but never read anything by her. But a 'salesman by day, but in his spare time a writer of lurid paperbacks' sounds very promising to me!

    And glad to have you back! Staring at a computer all day at home for work, and then staring a computer at home some more for socializing does feel a bit strange...

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    1. Thanks for the comment reese! Mr. Disher was a lovely character and to look at, not what one would expect of an author writing pulp fiction.

      Thanks for the welcome back. I hope to develop some better habits moving forward. :D

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  4. I've never even heard of the author, but Mr. Disher sounds as if he makes the experience worthwhile!

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