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Summer Will Show (1936)

av Sylvia Townsend Warner

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MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
401647,146 (3.63)96
Sophia Willoughby, a young Englishwoman from an aristocratic family and a person of strong opinions and even stronger will, has packed her cheating husband off to Paris. He can have his tawdry mistress. She intends to devote herself to the serious business of raising her two children in proper Tory fashion. Then tragedy strikes: the children die, and Sophia, in despair, finds her way to Paris, arriving just in time for the revolution of 1848. Before long she has formed the unlikeliest of close relations with Minna, her husband’s sometime mistress, whose dramatic recitations, based on her hair-raising childhood in czarist Russia, electrify audiences in drawing rooms and on the street alike. Minna, “magnanimous and unscrupulous, fickle, ardent, and interfering,” leads Sophia on a wild adventure through bohemian and revolutionary Paris, in a story that reaches an unforgettable conclusion amidst the bullets, bloodshed, and hope of the barricades. Sylvia Townsend Warner was one of the most original and inventive of twentieth-century English novelists. At once an adventure story, a love story, and a novel of ideas, Summer Will Show is a brilliant reimagining of the possibilities of historical fiction.… (mer)

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It took me longer than I expected to finish this novel, although I liked it all the way through. In the first half, we see Sophia as a competent, energetic landowner, but the death of her frail children and final breach with her husband leaves her at a loss: what to do now. She sets out to Paris to meet her husband, but ends up drawn to and living with his former mistress, Minna, and witness the 1848 unrest first hand. ( )
  queen_ypolita | Dec 7, 2020 |
I had varying reactions to this book. It's about Sophia Willoughby and takes place in the mid-1800s. When we first meet her, she seems to be in a typical wealthy woman, married and raising her children. But early on, you find that she's separated from her husband and he's living in Paris with his mistress, Minna. Then her children die and she decides she wants another child and will use her husband for this purpose. She goes to Paris where she drops this idea but meets and becomes enamored with Minna, who introduces her to various revolutionaries and a whole new way of thinking. They find themselves living together and participating in the 1848 revolution in Paris.

Overall, I liked this but I also had stretches that I found pretty boring and lost the story a bit. I also didn't like the focus on Minna's Jewishness and the stereotypes that were continually referenced about her.

This was ok, but won't be for everyone. ( )
  japaul22 | Jul 7, 2019 |
3.5 stars Sophia, an English aristocrat living in Blandamer House in Dorset, is trapped in a loveless marriage with the womanizing Frederick, who she has packed off to Paris. Content with her rural life and two children, Sophia suffers the heartbreak of losing both to smallpox. Desperate for children, she goes in search of a sperm donor, but conscious of social conventions in 1840s England, she concludes her husband is the only suitable, if distasteful, penis available. She arrives in Paris in February 1848, registers at a hotel, and goes to Frederick’s last known address. He isn’t there, but a bribe divulges the address of his mistress and Sophia, never one to let a sexual rival stand in her way, is off to make an “arrangement” with Frederick. When she claps eyes upon the mistress, Sophia falls instantly, and passionately in love with Minna Lemuel, an aging, elegant, boulvardiere, so “unscrupulous, her principles were so inconsistent that to all intents and purposes she had no principles at all.” England, Frederick, and children are forgotten, while Sophia is introduced into a lesbian, bohemian lifestyle by Minna. This love story could stand on its own, but the author chose 1848 to make a political statement. As all students of history know, 1848 was a seminal year for European revolutions with Austria/Hapsburg Empire, Italy, Germany, Poland, and France undergoing revolutions brought about by the proletariat’s desire for a better life. Of course Minna joyfully leapt to the barricades while Sophia ran after her. A good read with voluptuous language, but a disconcerting, inconclusive ending. Don’t expect titillating lesbian love making; that is left to the imagination. ( )
1 rösta ShelleyAlberta | Jun 4, 2016 |
Winter will shake. Spring will try,
Summer will show if you live or die.

With Sylvia Townsend Warner reading week being extended to a month long celebration, it gave me chance to get stuck into one of the two books I have had tbr for quite some time. I could have chosen Lolly Willowes to read – a much smaller book, but I decided to challenge myself with Summer will Show, Warner’s fourth novel. Summer will Show is not an especially easy read, but I found the beginning particularly readable, almost unputdownable and although the novel eventually spirals off into a far more complex narrative – it is really very good and very beautifully written. This is a book that I think I will remember – which is always a very good sign. While several of Sylvia Townsend Warner’s novels revisit similar themes, the novels themselves do appear on the surface at least to be very different. Summer will Show is the third of them that I have read. The Corner that Held Them is set among a community of nuns in a fourteenth century abbey, Mr Fortune’s Maggot concerns a missionary on a tiny South-Sea island. First published in 1936, Summer will Show; the story of Sophia Willoughby takes us to the mid nineteenth century, specifically the streets of revolutionary Paris in 1848.

“It was boring to be a woman, nothing that one did had any meat in it. And her peculiar freedom, well-incomed, dis-husbanded, seemed now only to increase the impotence of her life. Free as she might be to do as she pleased, all her doings were barrened.”

Sophia Willoughby enjoys an unconventional independent existence on her inherited family estate, estranged from her husband, who is enjoying himself in Europe with his mistress – she spends her time fretting over the health of her two children. As mistress of Blandamer House, Sophia is unused to criticism, her world, and everyone in it dances to her tune. With her children suffering bad coughs, Sophia takes them up the hill to visit the slightly malevolent lime kiln keeper, breathing in the fumes of the lime kiln an old, traditional cure for coughs. The lime kiln man is a dirty, drunk, with sores on his arms that he uses to lift up Sophia’s precious, cosseted children. Soon after this, while Sophia is delivering her uncle’s illegitimate son to a school in Cornwall, the children fall ill from a fever. The doctor tells a distraught Sophia that it is Smallpox, and Sophia instantly knows that they will die. At first, with the children lying upstairs dangerously ill, nursed faithfully by a woman brought in by the local doctor who visits daily, Sophia delays in contacting her husband Frederick whose adultery has so humiliated her. Following surprising intervention by the doctor’s mouse like wife, Sophia contacts Frederick who arrives just as their son dies. Following the death of both her children, and Frederick’s return to France, Sophia no longer knows where she wants to be. Devastated and still reeling from her appalling loss she hits upon the idea of having another child, and in February 1848 travels to Paris to find Frederick.

“God, an enormous darkness, hung looped over half her sky, an ever-present menace, a cloud waiting to break.”

1848revgFrederick’s mistress in Paris is Minna Lemeul, a Lithuanian storyteller; her salon is a popular place for the bohemian of Paris. It is here that upon her arrival in Paris Sophia tracks down Frederick, while Minna holds the room in the palm of her hand, captivating them with her tales of her childhood in Lithuania. As Minna talks; people are beginning to build barricades on the streets nearby. As the revolution begins to take hold, Sophia is thrown together with Minna – and is surprised by her reactions to the woman she had previously viewed as a home wrecking harlot. Sophia has a much loved great-aunt living in Paris and enduring her third revolution, so Sophia descends on her aunt’s home while the revolution rumbles on. Great-Aunt Léocadie sets herself to reuniting Sophia and Frederick, little suspecting what will happen next.

“Sitting here, and thus, she had attained to a state which she could never have desired, not even conceived. And being so unforeseen, so alien to her character and upbringing, her felicity had an absolute perfection; no comparison between the desired and the actual could tear holes in it, no ambition whisper, But this is not quite what you wanted, is it?”

Sophia sets up home with the ageing, non-too beautiful Minna, fascinated by her revolutionary sympathies, her bohemian friends and her beguiling stories – Sophia has fallen in love with her husband’s mistress. Like other characters in Townsend Warner’s fiction, Sophia has become an outsider within the world she inhabits for a time. Cut off from her fortunes by an enraged Frederick, Sophia’s world is turned upside down; her polite, ordered world seems a long way away in a world of little money, revolutionary plots and communists. As Sophia and Minna collect scrap metal for the revolutionary ammunition makers, intellectuals romanticize the revolution before a final dramatic show down on the barricades.

I am so glad that I read summer will show; it’s a biggish complex novel, colourful, noisy and brilliantly vibrant. I am now looking forward to Lolly Willowes at some point in the future which I know many people have really enjoyed, and I really must read some of Warner’s short stories – I have a feeling they will be particularly good. ( )
2 rösta Heaven-Ali | Jul 2, 2015 |
Winter will shake. Spring will try,
Summer will show if you live or die.


This somewhat ominous couplet seemed a promising start to Sylvia Townsend Warner's Summer will Show. The promise held in the excellent writing, the use of language, and Townsend Warner's deeply evident connection to the English countryside. It didn't hold with the characters and plot.

The word that frequently came to mind was "unpleasant". Nothing stronger, as the well mannered central character Sophia Willoughby would not herself use a stronger word, although her feelings would be evident nonetheless. As the novel starts, Sophia was well pleased with herself indeed. Her husband Frederick was off in France having an affair, and Sophia was happily living the exceedingly comfortable life of a nineteenth century woman in charge of her inherited estates. Yes, the servants might talk about the state of her marriage, but it was a small price to pay for being on her own.

Sophia's world abruptly changed though and she set off to France, to visit her great aunt in Paris. Nothing like a new wardrobe to set the world right after an upset, or was it Frederick who might do it? Frederick may have been a cunning person, but he certainly could not have anticipated the outcome of Sophia's visit. He may have been egocentric and dim, but he was certainly the master of petty spite. When Sophia suddenly left her great aunt's and asked for her trunk and dressing case to be forwarded, it was Frederick who sent them on. She discovered They had been carefully dealt with, the dressing-case in particular. Even the gold tops had been removed from the flasks and pomade-pots, and corks of assorted sizes rammed down in their stead. Hidden under a silk band -- pious observance of Papa's axiom that one should always keep five pounds against emergency -- had been a Bank of England note. This also had been removed. Frederick had indeed been a most thorough and conscientious steward of her goods.

The cause of all this turmoil was Minna Lemeul, Frederick's mistress. In the introduction to the NYRB edition, Claire Harman describes Minna as "...one of Warner's most beguiling creations, a self-dramatist and visionary, an artist of great power, yet also a bit of a charlatan. Aging, unbeautiful, unscrupulous, 'her principles were so inconsistent that to all intents and purposes she had no principles at all'." (p ix)

"Beguiling" did not fit at all with my reading; "unscrupulous" did. Minna was every bit as unpleasant and manipulative in her own way as Frederick and Sophia were in theirs. However, while Minna's character and behaviour were well drawn and crucial to the plot, I had a lot of trouble with the characteristics attributed to her by both Frederick and Sophia based on her religion. Minna earned her living in part as a storyteller on stage. Many of her stories were of the Lithuanian shtetl where she had grown up. The casual way in which prejudice was expressed and received among the English characters was disturbing. This was a novel written in 1936 and set in 1848, so some prejudice might be expected, but here it seemed completely gratuitous and added nothing. Had Minna been nearly as inately clever with money and finances as their remarks would have it, she would not have been living in a garret and borrowing from those friends in a position to help.

The Paris section of the book is set against the uprisings of 1848. Minna was involved in the same vague way she did everything. Sophia became more involved, collecting scrap metal for the workers to make into ammunition. One fateful June evening, Minna and Sophia helped defend the people's barricades. Sophia's world shifted yet again. In the end, Sophia's future is left up in the air. Last seen, she is reading [The Communist Manifesto].

However, despite Warner's own membership in the British Communist Party and despite the dramatic events of the rebellion and their conclusion, it seemed Sophia was still as detached and self contained as ever. Sophia herself seemed to suspect this, seemed to anticipate a return to her old life, thinking Probably I shall live to a profound old age. And people will say of me "Do you know, old Mrs. Willoughby went through the Revolution of '48 in Paris?" And someone else will answer, "How extraordinary! One would never think it."... "Such a dull old woman."

This is the second book I have read by Sylvia Townsend Warner and the second disappointment, which is a pity, as she writes so well. Perhaps she was trying to show the immutability of the landed classes, perhaps she was trying to idealize the workers and students; there just did not seem to be a purpose for this book, while its earnestness definitely suggested it should have one.
4 rösta SassyLassy | Jul 7, 2014 |
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Warner has long remained a secret, perhaps because her experimental impulses were never exuberant enough to grab the attention of the Modernists' most adventurous readers. The recent republication of Summer Will Show is her best chance, after all these years, of emerging from the fog of near-oblivion, as thick as it is unfair.
 
the most skilful, most surefooted, sensitive, witty piece of prose yet to have been colored by left-wing ideology ...
tillagd av lquilter | ändraThe Nation, Mary McCarthy (Aug 15, 1936)
 

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Författarens namnRollTyp av författareVerk?Status
Warner, Sylvia Townsendprimär författarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Harman, ClaireInledningmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Léger, FernandOmslagmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
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'It must have been in 1920 or 21, for I was still in my gaunt flat over the furrier in the Bayswater Road and totally engaged in Tudor Church Music, that I said to a young man called Robert Firebrace that I had invented a person: an early Victorian young lady of means with a secret passion for pugilism;... (Introduction)
It was on this very day - the thirteenth of July - and in just such weather that Sophia Willoughby had been taken to see the Duke of Wellington.
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Sophia Willoughby, a young Englishwoman from an aristocratic family and a person of strong opinions and even stronger will, has packed her cheating husband off to Paris. He can have his tawdry mistress. She intends to devote herself to the serious business of raising her two children in proper Tory fashion. Then tragedy strikes: the children die, and Sophia, in despair, finds her way to Paris, arriving just in time for the revolution of 1848. Before long she has formed the unlikeliest of close relations with Minna, her husband’s sometime mistress, whose dramatic recitations, based on her hair-raising childhood in czarist Russia, electrify audiences in drawing rooms and on the street alike. Minna, “magnanimous and unscrupulous, fickle, ardent, and interfering,” leads Sophia on a wild adventure through bohemian and revolutionary Paris, in a story that reaches an unforgettable conclusion amidst the bullets, bloodshed, and hope of the barricades. Sylvia Townsend Warner was one of the most original and inventive of twentieth-century English novelists. At once an adventure story, a love story, and a novel of ideas, Summer Will Show is a brilliant reimagining of the possibilities of historical fiction.

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