ePub The World My Wilderness ePub

by Rose Macaulay

This is Rose Macaulay’s penultimate novel and she had begun writing novels almost 50 years earlier. The backdrop of the novel is post-war London and the ruins caused by the Blitz. Macaulay is an interesting character in her own right; her family tree is fascinating and includes academics, abolitionists and the great Whig historian T B Macaulay. She read history at Somerville College Oxford and was a lifelong feminist. During the Blitz her London flat was destroyed, including her library; she had to rebuild from scratch.
The inter relationships in this novel are quite complex. The central character is Barbary Deniston who is 17. In the summer of 1945 she is living with her mother Helen Michel in the South of France, where she has spent the war. Helen’s second husband, Maurice had been a minor collaborator during the war and had recently been drowned in mysterious circumstances. Barbary spends much of her time with her step brother Raoul (Maurice’s son). During the latter part of the war she and Raoul have been helping the Maquis and pretty much running wild. She has been packed up by the Gestapo and interrogated and, it is hinted, raped. Helen has a son by Maurice who is now a toddler. Barbary’s father, Gulliver, lives in London with his new wife Pamela.
The novel begins as Barbary and Raoul are being sent to London, Barbary to stay with her father and Raoul with his uncle. There is an almost unstated feel that Barbary and Raoul knew something about the death of Maurice. The implication is that Barbary will stay with her father for quite some time. Her mother Helen has maintained very few boundaries for her children and is something of a Bohemian. Her father is very different and she finds life in his household much more restrictive; she also dislikes his new wife. Barbary and Raoul discover the bombed out wilderness around St Pauls and spend time with its occupants, who are also often on the edges of society. They have an innate mistrust of authority and like those they meet do not wish to participate in conventional society. They take over an empty flat and Barbary paints in a ruined church. As time goes on Barbary becomes increasingly alienated from her London family and starts to fall foul of the authorities. An accident brings circumstances to a head and there is a denouement with a few interesting twists.
It is an enjoyable novel and Barbary is an endearing protagonist. The actual Church in the novel where Barbary takes refuge is St Giles Cripplegate. Barbary finds the ruins comforting and creates her own space, a home there and there is a redemptive and healing theme; in the sense of coming to terms with the past. For Barbary there is trauma relating to her time with the Maquis; things done to her and things she has done. The dislocation of the setting mimics Barbary’s own dislocation and its wildness attracts her as much as the order of her father’s household and social circle repels her. This is a beautifully written and nuanced tale and there is a good deal going on below the surface. There is a remarkable scene when an old priest stumbles into the ruined church, clearly still disturbed by his experiences in the Blitz; he flings himself to the ground and is clearly very distressed; he is rescued by a younger priest who comes to find him.
This is worth looking out and Macaulay makes one feel some sympathy, even for the more unsympathetic characters; an interesting read.

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Book Title
Book Author
PublisherLittle, Brown Book Group
Release date 01.07.1992
Pages count254
eBook formatPaperback, (torrent)En
File size6.4 Mb
Book rating3.75 (68 votes)
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