Ivy Compton-Burnett

A few months ago I wrote about Ivy Compton-Burnett’s Parents and Children, and a few of you said you hadn’t read the great lady before, but would be interested… I’m looking at you, farmlanebooks, Simon S, Paperback Reader, and Pamela Terry! I recently read Robert Liddell’s Elizabeth and Ivy, about the friendship between Elizabeth Taylor and Ivy C-B, after seeing the book mentioned in Nicola Beauman’s biography of Elizabeth Taylor (reviewed here). It’s an interesting book, mostly because Liddell had the (possibly unique) advantage of being friends with both writers, but it’s also rather clumsy at times. He quotes a lot of the letters, and Taylor had a disconcerting habit of transcribing lengthy conversations in her letters… quoting layers of quoting gets rather confusing. Still, a good resource.

But that’s not what I’m writing about – since some of you expressed interest in ICB, I wondered if you’d got any further, and whether or not people would be interested in doing a group read of one of her novels? You’ll either love or hate, and you’ll know by about page 10. I’ll do this quite informally, but I’d like to know who’d be interested – we could read, say, Manservant and Maidservant alongside each other, comparing notes, and it will act as a first step into the world of Ivy. And, quite possibly, a last step – but I definitely think you should test the water. For my money, Ivy C-B is one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. And trust the prophet not to be appreciated in her own land – scandalously, none of her books are in print in the UK, though the New York Review of Books Classics does a rather beautiful edition of Manservant and Maidservant, pictured. (It was originally published in the US as Bullivant and the Lambs, but has been reprinted under the original, English title).

Let me know if you’re interested, and hopefully we’ll get something going before long!

18 thoughts on “Ivy Compton-Burnett

  • September 25, 2009 at 7:18 am
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    I'm interested – haven't read any ICB either! Not sure if we have her at work either.

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  • September 25, 2009 at 7:42 am
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    I've never read her and would be willing to give this a go!

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  • September 25, 2009 at 8:27 am
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    I'd definitely be interested. I need an excuse to read ICB!

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  • September 25, 2009 at 10:04 am
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    I would like an excuse to be pushed into ICB.

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  • September 25, 2009 at 10:18 am
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    I got a little bit further – I bought the Ivy Compton 'A First Omnibus' containing A Family and A Fortune, A God and his Gifts and Parents and Children. I haven't got round to reading anything yet though and would love to take part in a read along. She sounds like the sort of author that needs to be talked about!

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  • September 25, 2009 at 11:13 am
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    I've tried and failed with a 'Heritage and it's History' twice, if you can tell me that after hating that I might like this I'm game to give it a go.

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  • September 25, 2009 at 12:19 pm
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    I'm definitely interested. ICB has been on my to-be-read list for far too long.

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  • September 25, 2009 at 12:57 pm
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    ALthough, it would help me if we could do one of the four which are published by Virago :)

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  • September 25, 2009 at 1:32 pm
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    I'd be interested (though I second Verity's idea of choosing one of the Viragos), particularly as I haven't read any ICB.

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  • September 25, 2009 at 7:11 pm
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    I was game and still very much am, should I pootle off and order my copy from amazon now??

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  • September 25, 2009 at 9:23 pm
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    I'd especially like a recommendation of which of hers to put on my list.

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  • September 26, 2009 at 12:59 am
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    Actually I've been curious about her ever since the mention in The Uncommon Reader, so as long as I can get my hands on a copy I'm interested.

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  • September 26, 2009 at 9:13 am
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    I'm appalled to hear that ICB is out of print in the UK! Anyway, I would be interested in taking part, too.

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  • September 26, 2009 at 10:43 am
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    I tried and failed with a House on its Head years ago. I found her writing style bizarre and difficult. I'm willing to try again if I can find a copy of the book you mentioned. If not, I'll definitely be interested in hearing what everyone thinks.

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  • September 28, 2009 at 9:25 pm
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    I am definitely interested – I have never read any ICB and I have recently found an old penguin edition of A House and Its Head in a second hand shop which is now on my to be read pile. Excellent idea to get a group read going.

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