3 families in the early 1900’s cross paths. They differ in temper and ideals and life circumstances and thus the book becomes a study in difference in class in the English society, the social and economical differences from the lower to the upper middle class. The Schlegels are cultural and live their lives based on lofty ideals. The Wilcoxes are practical and rich and the Basts are in denial of their poverty and what it will take to get them out of it.
I love this book. I like the changes in tempi, the rich, indulgent conversations of the two Miss Schlegels and the way it crashes to expose the characters in their own and other families. When Leonard Bast first meets the Miss Schlegels, he is enchanted by their ideals and the dreams they see in the world – however he wishes to never meet them again as he recognises the mystery they turn him into is not one he can sustain for long.
So this book is filled with small episodes exposing the faults and virtues of these various people. It follows Margaret in her effort to love fairly and openly, efforts in changing her husband with her love. It explores what happens when you live solely on ideals – when you have money and when you don’t. And in the background of all this the Wilcoxes are English and rich and pragmatic.
I enjoyed getting to know these people. Particularly Margaret was delightful. There is a lot of navigation between the sexes and she masters this beautifully. She understands what it is to love someone and she understands her husband so well that she can be the woman he wants, while still getting her own way. I would never advocate going back to these gender roles, but it really does illustrate rather well that women were not thought powerless or of less value than men, just different.
The woman who can’t influence her husband to vote the way she wants ought to be ashamed of herself.