Tuesday, 4 November 2014

The Angelic Avengers by Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen)

My TBR shelves have hosted this book for about 20 years I think. That is when it was printed and it

makes sense that it was then I bought it. I had already started it, if I judge from the book mark still in it. However, I only had vague remembrance of the book, so I started afresh.

Like with a lot of other books from these shelves, I am wondering why I have kept it there for so long. It is a lovely book, but not a ‘thundering’ read, if you know what I mean. The story evolves slowly, slowly, but somehow there is always a new hint of something to come. The language is beautiful, calm, almost fragile in its prose.

Not to reveal too much here is a summary of the start. Lucan is alone in the world and has got a position as a governess with a wealthy widow. He makes her an offer that she can refuse and she runs away in the middle of the night. She is heading to her school friend Zosine which she has not met since school. Arriving at her mansion on the day of her birthday ball she is welcomed with joy. However, things are not as good as they seem. Zosine’s father is in bankruptcy and has to flee, the creditors are banging the door to the mansion the next day and the two girls have to leave.

Having no funds to live from they travel to London and apply for positions as governesses. Since they don’t want to separate it is difficult to find something. Then one day reverend Pennhallow enters the scene. He and his wife are looking for two girls to take in for charity. He will teach them for a year and they are to live with them in their house in France. Well, that all sounds rather good doesn’t it?

From here on we follow the girls during this year. It is difficult to put the novel in a genre since it touches on so many. I find it gothic, magic, supernatural, romantic and mysterious. Almost like a fairy tale. All in one story. It is magically written, with a calm movement forward of the story, romantic descriptions of the landscape and the daily life in this rural area. It reminds me a little bit of The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe  but not that long lingering on descriptions.

It is not a book that overwhelms you with the story, but it stays with you after you have finished the book. Isak Dinesen the pseudonym for Karen Blixen is mostly known for her book The African Farm on which the film Out of Africa was based. I have seen the film but not read the book, although it is on my TBR shelves as well. I think it is time to read that one as well.

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