Un noeud de vipères dans une corbeille à ouvrage.Echaudée par l'interrogatoire mené par la vieille et acariâtre Miranda Hume, Miss Burke refuse le poste de dame de compagnie qu'elle lui propose. Par chance, elle entre chez la voisine des Hume, Emma Greatheart, qui y vit avec son amie d'école, Hester. Mais Hester ne veut rester sans travail qui puisse lui permettre de subvenir à ses besoins chez Emma : elle prend donc la place vacante chez les Hume. À partir de là, se joue une pièce dramatique digne d'une tragédie grecque, avec des révélations scandaleuses et des coeurs brisés à chaque porte qu'on ouvre.
Entre dialogues piquants et cruels, ce roman est l'illustration de l'idée qu'Ivy Compton-Burnett se faisait de la société victorienne.
" Dans des décors à la Agatha Christie, la romancière Ivy Compton-Burnett cisèle une oeuvre hilarante et d'une cruauté froide. " Christophe Mercier, Le Figaro
Traduit de l'anglais par Claude Clergé et Eveline Perloff
Un drame familial sous le vernis de l'amabilité et de la respectabilité.Dans ce roman, on retrouve le monde victorien orgueilleux, conventionnel, dépeint avec maîtrise dont Ivy Compton-Burnett s'est fait le peintre cruel.
L'ombre de l'inceste plane sur toute l'intrigue, bâtie autour de quatre couples de frères et soeurs, charmants, raffinés, amis des trois " enfants du château " dans lequel vit Sophia, la mère abusive, et son falot époux, Christian.
Le secret honteux de la naissance de celui-ci va nous captiver tout au long de ce livre rythmé par des conversations en demi-teintes dont la perfidie n'a d'égale que la sournoiserie.
Voici l'un des chefs-d'oeuvre de la vieille dame anglaise aux lèvres pincées qui, telle une entomologiste, a observé de son fauteuil la lente extinction des énergies victoriennes.
The Donne family's move to the country is inspired by a wish to be close to their cousins, who are to be their nearest neighbours. It proves too close for comfort, however. For a secret switching of wills causes the most genteel pursuit of self-interest to threaten good relations and even good manners...
First published in 1944, Ivy Compton-Burnett employs her sharp ear for comedy and celebrated powers of dialogue to spectacular effect. She reveals a devastating microcosm of human society, in which the elders are by no means always the betters, in which no character is totally scrupulous, but none without their appeal.
Eleanor and Fulbert Sullivan live, with their nine children ranging from nursery to university age, in a huge country house belonging to Fulbert's parents, Sir Jesse and Lady Regan. Sir Jesse sends Fulbert, his only son, on a business mission to South America. News comes of Fulbert's death, and his executor, Ridley Cranmer, plans an impulsive marriage to Eleanor... but is Fulbert really dead? And what is the mystery surrounding the parentage of the three strange Marlowes living in genteel penury on the fringe of the great estate?
Parents and Children is less savage in theme than some of Ivy Compton-Burnett's fiction and, with its richly funny scenes with the children and happily resolved ending, makes a perfect introduction to this distinguished author's highly individual world - a closed world of intense relationships within late Victorian upper-class families, a world in which the normally unspoken is stated and the unthinkable enacted, with dark revelations blandly emerging from formal speeches of great subtlety.
First published in 1959, A Heritage and its History tells the story of 69 year old Sir Edwin Challoner, and his extended family.Unmarried, and with no direct issue, Challoner's closest relation, and business associate, is his younger brother Hamish.When Hamish dies of a heart condition, his son Simon prepares to take over as head of the house, as everyone assumes that Sir Edwin will also die in a matter of months.
However, Sir Edwin surprises everyone by announcing his marriage to Rhoda, his neighbour, also more than 40 years his junior.Following the return from their honeymoon, Rhoda succumbs to a moment of unbridled passion with Simon, her new husband's nephew.When Rhoda falls pregnant, there is no question who has fathered the child.
A Heritage and its History gets right to the heart of this family as it splits into factions, growing increasingly bitter and resentful.The reader watches on in amazement as two families become more and more entangled, and the path to the inheritance of this once great house and title becomes ever more twisted.Sooner or later, the secret must come out...
The Last and the First was Ivy Compton-Burnett's final novel. In it she deals with her familiar themes - tyranny, power and corruption. Although the novel was unfinished at the time of her death in 1969, it combines the brilliant wit and incisive insight into human relationships which make her one of the most original novelists in English literature.
The first edition of Dolores was published in 1911. It sold well, and was promptly forgotten. Now that her career of sixty years is ended, and her long achievement more and more acclaimed, Dolores, standing at that remote beginning, is curiously reborn.
I cannot be parted longer from my sons... I am coming back to my home' Nine years after her divorce from Cassius Clare, Catherine decides to re-enter his life. Her decision causes a dramatic upheaval in the Clare family and its implications are analysed and redefined, not only in the drawing-room, but in the children's nursery and the servants' quarters. At first, Flavia, Cassius's second wife, feels resentment, fearing that she may be usurped. But as a friendship develops between the two women, it is Cassius who is excluded and whose self-pity intensifies, erupting in a shocking, unexpected way...
Sefton and his sister Clemence are dispatched to separate boarding schools. Their father's second marriage, their mother's economies, provide perfect opportunities for mockery, and home becomes a source of shame. More wretched is their mother's insistence that they excel. Their desperate means to please her incite adult opprobrium, but how did the children learn to deceive? Here staccato dialogue, brittle aphorisms and an excoriating wit are used to unparalleled and subversive effect ruthlessly to expose the wounds beneath the surface of family life.
The exacting Miranda's search for a suitable companion brings her family into contact with a very different kind of household, raising a plenitude of questions about the ability to manage alone, the difficulties of living with strangers and some strange discoveries about intimates.
With his wife's death, Ninian Middleton turned to his eldest daughter, Lavinia, as a companion. When, some years later, he decides to marry again, a chasm opens in the life of the young girl whose time he has so jealously possessed. Convoluted attempts are made to prevent this marriage - and others - and the seams of intense family relationships are torn, with bitter consequences. Astringent, succinct and always subversive, Ivy Compton-Burnett wields her scalpel-like pen to vehemently dissect the passions and duplicity of the Middleton family.
First published in 1963, A God and his Gifts was the last of Ivy Compton-Burnett's novels to be published in her lifetime and is considered by many to be one of her best. Set in the claustrophobic world of Edwardian upper-class family life, it is the story of the self-willed and arrogant Hereward Egerton. In his marriage to Ada Merton he maintains a veneer of respectability but through his intimate relationships with his sister, Emmeline, and his son's future wife, Hetty, he steps beyond the bounds of conventional morality with both comic and tragic results...