The Darlington Author:Sylvia Brooke This surprising novel of mid-Victorian England is, by reason of its charm and general attitude toward life, and its direct approach to story-telling, unlike anything American readers have seen in many years. Indeed, it is hard to believe that Charlotte Bront?, or even Jane Austen, would not have read it with chuckles and genuine literary appreci... more »ation.
The incredible Darlingtons live at White Orchard Manor, their gracious country estate. Here, on the surface, their lives appear to be only pleasantly formal and old-fashioned; yet behind the scenes their intense personal problems are dramatic enough to belong to the ages. Life with Lord Darlington, the elegant country squire mischievously and philosophically determined to enjoy himself at all costs, is comparable only to "Life with Father" in America. And Lady Darlington, who behind petticoats and chokers avoids the facts of existence as if they were unmentionable ancestors, is remindful of ladies everywhere who put decorum and "Society" first.
The Darlington daughters, Henrietta and Susan, products of this leisurely age of needlecraft, dancing circles and social constriction, engage upon a relentless rivalry in their attempts to resolve the temperatemtal strife between their parents, and to discover, at the same time, their own emerging lives. Beautiful Henrietta is an ambitious girl living under the belief that "all men are beasts out for their prey," and Susan, the novel's undisguised heroine, is an awkward but lovable girl=, oppressed by her sister's tyranny and shyly eager to find happiness and truth.
With none too gentle irony, the author takes us with Susan as she struggles to seek her path past the hypocrisy of false modesty and prudery which surrounds her. In a frankly melodramatic climax, virtue triumphs over villainy, but not until dear innocent Susan Darlington has undergone enough dramatic experience to make a movie thriller seem tame.
In short, this graceful novel from a politer age is filled with rare surprises and undercurrents of passion, and executed throughout with a bravura that delights the spirit. As sturdy and forthright as great grandmother's sampler, few books of recent years are likely to be so enduring, or happily remembered.« less