Books September 1987
Old, new, buried, blue
A review of Family Skeletons by Henrietta Garnett.
“Why, when October comes round,” Virginia Woolf famously complained in her essay “Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown,” “do the publishers always fail to supply us with a masterpiece?” Of the incompetent writers of her day, she went on to remark, “their sincerity is desperate, and their courage tremendous; it is only that they do not know which to use, a fork or their fingers.” One might wonder if Mrs. Woolf would be surprised today to observe how grimly durable her complaints have proved; they are certainly no less pertinent now, and may even be pointed, ironically, toward this first attempt at fiction by her own great-niece, Henrietta Garnett.
Family Skeletons has three settings, all isolated and all travelogue-beautiful: an estate in Ireland called Malabay, a vaguely Swiss mountain clinic, and an island. The book supplies slightly more characters than...
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