Brothers and Sisters Author:Ivy Compton-Burnett Brothers and Sisters (1929) — "Novelists and playwrights have always been tempted by the closed situation, that is, by the confinement of several characters, in a particular place out of which there is no escape, thus providing full scope for complete exploration of the emotions under the most apalling of conditions of restraint. One such place i... more »s Hell, in the theological sense; another is the family. Miss Compton-Burnett has chosen the latter for her particular kind of exploration, a situation as closed, terrible and fraught with violence as Hell itself."
? from the introduction to the Zero Press edition, 1956
"People say that things don't happen like they do in my books," Comptom-Burnett once said earnestly to an old friend: "Believe me, they do." Her second novel, Brothers and Sisters, was of all her books the one that stuck most closely to her own past, examining the depredations of a jealous, demanding, extravagantly grief-stricken widow directly based on Ivy's mother. It is an unreassuring, if not unsympathetic portrait -- one of the things Ivy's admirers found most disconcerting was her refusal to dismiss or condemn her fictional tyrants out of hand -- and it lays down for the first time a relationship with the past that would remain constant in all her subsequent novels. Sophia Stace stands revealed with disturbing clarity in the light of the hard, frank, unblinking stare Ivy's contemporaries found so essentially modern. "One suddenly sees that she is all that is worst in the nineteenth century," wrote a perceptive reviewer, comparing I. Compton-Burnett favourably with William Faulkner in the New York Saturday Review in 1929,
and the young people with their forthrightness and independence, all that is best of the twentieth. Their modernity gives them ... the ability to go through the fire and escape the burning. All other books on this theme are stories of the present defeated by the past; Brothers and Sisters is a story of the present hurt by the past, but not defeated.« less