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Full House (1935)

de Molly Keane

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MembresRessenyesPopularitatValoració mitjanaMencions
1495144,874 (3.88)55
Silverue -- an enchanting Irish mansion -- is owned by one of the most frightening mothers in fiction -- the indomitable, oppressively girlish Lady Bird. Blessed with wealth and beautiful children she has little to worry about except the passing of the years and the return of her son John's sanity. To help her through the potentially awkward occasion of John's return from the asylum she has enlisted the support of Eliza, a woman she believes to be her confidante. But Eliza has her own secrets and John's homecoming will prove the catalyst for revelations which Lady Bird would much rather leave buried.… (més)
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Molly Keane grew up in Co. Kldare, Ireland, and belonged to the Anglo-Irish gentry about whom she wrote. Her main interests as a teenager were "hunting and horses and having a good time." She started writing as a means of supplementing her dress allowance, but since girls of her class were not expected to like books, let alone write them, she wrote under the pseudonym M. J. Farrell. Keane published Full House in 1935. My copy was published by Virago in 1986.

The storyline revolves around the Bird family, part of that Anglo-Irish gentry Keane knew so well, and their Irish mansion, Silverue. Lady Olivia Bird is the beautiful, selfish matriarch of the family. She creates beauty in her home and in her garden, her husband is devoted to her, and her children HATE her. The father, Julian, is sweet and kind. The youngest of the children is Markie who is still young enough to have a governess, the lonely Miss Parker. His sister Sheena is in love with Rupert, and his older brother John has just arrived home after having recovered from a nervous breakdown. Arriving on the scene to hold them all together is Eliza Blundel. Eliza has always been in love with Julian, and is the catalyst for most of what happens in the story.

It does sound a bit soap opera-ish, however, think more along the lines of a BBC production on Masterpiece Classic. Kean's writing is lovely and very poetic. At first I thought it was going to be a bit too much, but I am glad I kept reading, because it really was a lovely book.

Read August 2013 ( )
  NanaCC | Jul 26, 2015 |
The Bird family of Silverue House forms the bulk of the characters in this Irish big house story but Mrs. Eliza Blundel, Lady and Lord Bird's friend, is the axis around which (whom?) everything rotates. Everyone’s friend, everyone’s confidante, she is a person who is a catalyst for action and change, except that involving the nanny, Miss Parker.

Lady Bird is the profoundly egocentric lady of the house, a woman who has hung on to her youthful beauty, possessing a fine talent for creating beauty around her, with her arrangement of rooms and her beautiful gardens. She is sadly deficient in the personal relationship department, however, as all her children actively dislike her. Only her husband, Julian, remains steadfast and in love with her, despite a period of faithlessness with him on her part, while Eliza remains hopelessly in love with him, taking what little he gives of himself to her as she is able, sherry by the fire.

Despite the beauty of the setting all is not well at Silverue. Farrell weaves an air of faint despair, loneliness and loss around the house and its grounds, including in that weaving the sad life of the nanny, Miss Parker. Love is an elusive creature, sometimes hidden, sometimes rising up wild and young as with Sheena, or temporarily lost, as with John. Some, like Nick, eschew it altogether.

Yet there is lovely humour in Farrell’s writing. Take, for instance, Aunt Louisa’s water garden:

"This garden was designed with all the ingenuity of a formless mind. There was something almost invigorating in its awful failure to please. The whole thing was really the most stupendous failure. There was nothing about it that anybody could possibly commend. ..{snip}... Everything that should not be was here. Balustradings in profusion entwined with pink rambler roses, impatiently waiting to burst into flower. Terra-cotta pots full of geraniums and lobelia flanking bronze Buddhas and stone bridges. No country was omitted in this rich horticultural mixture. Japan, Thibet (sic), China, Venice, Greece, not a country or town that had not yielded its dash of inspiration to some of Aunt Louisa’s vigorous mind."

Farrell’s genius is in her ability to describe, whether a scene or an emotional state. The story itself is fairly simple: family secrets, young love thwarted, a son returning home from a nervous breakdown (John), unrequited love, how these things are dealt with and how it all falls out in the end. The character of Eliza is beautifully done. It isn’t so much that there is action here as a series of moods and emotions strung together into a story. A very enjoyable read.
5 vota tiffin | Mar 2, 2013 |
Lady Olivia Bird is the family matriarch, ruling over husband Julian, sons John and Mark, daughter Sheena, and their estate, Silverue. Lady Bird is domineering, cruel, insipid and self-centered. She is focused more on her garden than on any aspect of family life. She has a near-oedipal relationship with John, who has just returned home after being treated for a nervous breakdown, and practically ignores everyone else. Sheena is in love with a young man named Rupert; Mark is still young enough to spend most of his day with his lonely governess, Miss Parker.

Eliza, a family friend, visits Silverue just as John returns home. Eliza has long loved Julian, although it's not clear whether their relationship ever went beyond the platonic. Eliza is a keen observer of the family dynamics:
Eliza said, "Dear, but it's lovely for me," and she went away leaving Julian to everything that was more important than she was. To dressing flies for his mad son. To waiting for his faithless, cruel wife. To his Life in which he had no smallest part. Well, so long as one knew where one was, nothing hurt one. Only unexpected wounds and defeats. (p. 39)

Whoa! Molly Keane does dysfunctional Anglo-Irish families in large country houses very, very well. As Caroline Blackwood wrote in the afterword to my Virago Modern Classics edition:
Molly Keane "really knows" the shallow, sheltered world of Anglo-Irish gentry which has provided her with so much excellent material. She knows the facade of the beautiful romantic houses that her characters inhabit, and because she knows that facade so well she can make us see it.

Full House unfolds with a series of character studies, entire chapters focused on Lady Bird, Julian, Sheena, John, and sad little Miss Parker, who is waging a fruitless war against her facial hair:
Nor, when one is Miss Parker's age, does one expect great results from any depilatory. However largely advertised. However highly paid for. Used with whatever trembling of the soul and carefulness. Still one does not hope too much. One does not dare. (p. 90)

The children all despise their mother, and Olivia is oblivious to it. Julian is ineffectual, enabling his wife's behavior. John is simply taking one day at a time, pretending life is completely back to normal. Sheena hopes to escape through marriage, but the relationship is threatened by advice from a not-so-kindly relation. Only Olivia can help her, but has to be able to see beyond her own needs. In the end, Eliza makes it all turn out right for both Sheena and John, even though she knows there will be no reward for her in doing so.

This is my fourth Molly Keane novel, and I can now see themes common to her novels: the Anglo-Irish gentry in decline, horrible mothers, weak men, and biting satire. Altogether, they make for a very good read indeed. ( )
4 vota lauralkeet | Feb 24, 2013 |
First published in 1935, Full House presents a panorama of the fading Anglo-Irish aristocracy in which Molly Keane was raised. She published her novels under the pseudonym of M.J. Farrell to hide her authorial identity from that horsey/hunting set preoccupied with their "big houses" and keeping up appearances. Perfect stuff for the BBC and PBS (which I enjoy).

Eliza comes to visit the Birds (aptly named): Julian, with whom Eliza is half in love; Olivia, Lady Bird, beautiful, not too bright yet brilliant with her garden and decoration; and the children -- Markie, Sheena and John -- wildly attractive and awfully vulnerable. Eliza is the Heartbreak House to their Horseback Hall -- invited to ease John's comeback home after a nervous breakdown. Tangentially there are Miss Parker, the lonely governess and Nick o' the Rocks, a local fisherman.

On the surface, not much happens: a garden party, a late adolescent romance, frustrated desire, an affair, but Keane manages to interweave incredible descriptions of nature, multiple viewpoints, editorial intrusions, and a romantic melancholy into a journey into a bygone world. ( )
  janeajones | Dec 27, 2012 |
Now that we live in the age of the pixel, I suppose it's a gross anachronism to describe the experience of reading Molly Keane's Full House as being like "watching a photograph develop". Yet I can't come up with a more apt simile. The more along you progress in the novel, the clearer the outines of this group portrait become, the richer the color, the more subtle the hues, and only when the development is complete, can you evaluate the composition of the whole, and its particular genius.

The narrative concerns a season or two in the life of the Birds, a family of Anglo-Irish gentry on their estate, Silverue, during the peace after the Great War. The exposition of their tale swings casually from one character to another, almost like a Robert Altman film, Keane's voice being sometimes sardonic, sometimes ironic, sometimes sympathetic - and always witty and observant. My favorites were "poor Miss" Parker (the governess with no self-esteem), little Markie (the dear-but-savage youngest son), Nick O' the Rocks (the silent "local" - hunter, fisher, woodsman), Sheena (the vivacious and brave teenage daughter), and Eliza (the family friend and consigliere),

We attend a stuffy, tedious tennis party, then a fund raiser-garden tour (lashed like a nag, to victory), and peep at a tryst or two or three. A stroll in the hills, a walk on the beach - here a heart is broken, there a heart is bruised, and in between a heart is mended. In short, the life of the idle rich. Madness, it turns out, does not run in this family; but a certain charisma does. By the novel's end, we come to understand, from the inside, the powerful, natural, centripal forces that bind this clan and keep its favored "others" within its orbit.

The unexpected pleasure is Keane's vivid poetic touch which gives an added magic when it frames dialogue, or underscores an observation. For example,

"They went out to the car. It had rained in the night and the day was full of wind. The sky was very high and swept out to hollowness by the wind. A village on the hill was a little shining city encircled by a curious air. Its white-walled houses were as important as towers. The heights and slopes of its roofs had an excellent quality suggestive of quietness.
Sheena said: "it's so wonderful to see you Darling, why did you suddenly say you'd come?"
"I wanted to see you, I suppose."

I suppose you will want to meet the Birds too. In fact, I am sure of it. ( )
12 vota Ganeshaka | Apr 8, 2009 |
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Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
Molly Keaneautor primaritotes les edicionscalculat
Blackwood, CarolineEpílegautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat

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Silverue -- an enchanting Irish mansion -- is owned by one of the most frightening mothers in fiction -- the indomitable, oppressively girlish Lady Bird. Blessed with wealth and beautiful children she has little to worry about except the passing of the years and the return of her son John's sanity. To help her through the potentially awkward occasion of John's return from the asylum she has enlisted the support of Eliza, a woman she believes to be her confidante. But Eliza has her own secrets and John's homecoming will prove the catalyst for revelations which Lady Bird would much rather leave buried.

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823.912 — Literature English English fiction Modern Period 20th Century 1901-1945

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