So I live in Richmond, VA and it’s a weird town when it comes to dealing with its own past. On the one had, it’s the site of a lot of pre-Civil War colonial trade. Founded by William Byrd and named for a spot on the Thames, Richmond has a kind of desperately clung-to aristocracy that is just a pure fabrication (like every aristocracy, sure, but more like a copy of a copy). Ellen Glasgow is Richmond’s own chronicler of this kind of desperation. Richmond also claims Edgar Allen Poe, and like Poe, Glasgow is witness to the fractures around the edges of a society that presents one vision while containing a much different inside.
This novel traces some of this kind of story. It takes place in 1900-1918ish and represents a kind of caught-between element of the white, middle-class (in the British sense) world of society. Told through the eyes of Jenny Blair and her grandfather, General Archbald, this novel shows how sheltered a world-view can be when one is a girl-child who is not allowed to see the world of adults that will become her future, but also from the perspective of the older generation still clinging to a past fought-for but lost.
Of course this novel also deals with erasure. The erasure of Blackness in the South is a glaring kind of presence in this novel, written in 1932. And of course, it’s clear that Glasgow just didn’t seem particularly interested in their story, but I can now say I have read Richmond’s very own and it was, well, it was interesting conceptually, and I read the book quickly, but I think the worldview of the author has also faded along with that of its subjects.