An e-correspondent (Laura Green) draws attention to a book by Maurice L McCullen
Delafield. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1985
and has kindly sent some quotes from this book about EMD's novels.
ZELLA SEES HERSELF: 1917
"Zella Sees Herself, Delafield's first novel, set the thematic pattern: the adult world's miseducation of a young woman whose romantic view of life fails to fit social reality."
"... Zella moves through girlhood, convent school, and into society trying unsuccessfully to conform to "type," while at the same time trying to discover "what is real."
""Chameleon-like," Zella either adopts inauthentic roles or lies in order to meet the demands of these opposed worlds. Refusing to face the facts of any situation, or unaware of these facts, she invents her own. Thus, she is never quite sure what is true or real."
"While her family environments inhibit her development, Zella's egotism is responsible for her successive social failures. A dreamy, defensive romantic, Zella shuts herself off from real life, only to awake as an adult to the realization that a firm sense of reality is the prime requisite for living."
THE WAR WORKERS: 1918
"The War Workers is an upbeat, even high-spirited account of Delafield's own war servcie, and is notable for its first hints of her comic gifts."
"The novel's main theme, then, echoes that of Zella: egotism is destructive to the egotist, who is not completely aware of her self-absorption, and who creates tension in any situation."
"Light, dramatic, topical -- its humorous picture of the home front was most welcome in 1918, and appreciative reviewers compared her favorably with Jane Austen."
THE PELICANS: 1918
"The orphaned Grantham sisters in The Pelicans are opposites: Rosamund is rebellious, growing up "at odds with her world and her passionate, unbalanced self." Francie, two years younger, is a dreamer for whom the material world scarcely exists. The movement of this novel, while detailing Francie's steady progress towards a religious vocation, primarily traces Rosamund's rites of passage from rebellious romantic egotists to realistic adult."
"Through Rosamund, Delafield examined another case of youthful romanticism at odds with life."
"The eldest daughter of Sir Francis and Lady Isobel, Alex seeks slavishly but unsuccessfully for affection throughout her nursery and school years. Her excessive behavior causes repeated humiliations at her convent, and in consequences her repressed emotions find sublimation in romantic dreams"
"Tension is a good-humored romance on the Victorian "second-best" model. Pauline Marchrose's jilting of one suitor and romance with a married man affront local convention, in the person of neighborhood grande dame Lady Rossiter. Marchrose is hounded from her college position; but she accepts the proposal of a colleague, and the pair set out for the East as educational pioneers. Dedicated with terse irreverence "To My Maternal Parent," Delafield caricatures her mother in Lady Rossiter."
THE HEEL OF ACHILLES: 1920
"a negligible study of egotism"
"criticizes adult society again for hiding the truth from its youth, thus causing them to lose touch with reality."
"The epithet "amateur educationalists" symbolizes all adults in this novel, and Lily does not begin to grow up until she discovers her husband's infidelity. Although the amateur educationlists beseige her with advice, Lily finds for the first time that she can control her own life: divorce, spearation, reconciliation -- all decisions affecting her are in her hands, and the narrator informs us that "she had learned honesty at last."
THE OPTIMIST: 1922
"The Optimist pits cynical World War I veteran, Owen Quentillian, against the Victorian optimist, Canon Morchard."
"Against this background of dissension between old and new viewpoints, the disposition of the five Morchard children provides plot conflict. None can live by their father's principles; all suffer from his dominance."
"But what sets out to be another criticism of establishment views doubles back on itself as the reflector character, Quentillian, changes his mind about Canon Morchard. Whereas at first the canon "reminded him oddly of a book of late Victorian memoirs," Quentillian comes to idolize the old man."
A REVERSION TO TYPE: 1923
"Delafield's reentry into English society first produced a potboiler, A Reversion to Type, which makes a plea for greater understanding of mental illness in children."
MESSALINA OF THE SUBURBS: 1923
"Delafield's reacton to postwar sexual mores really begins with the sensation Messalina of the Suburbs, where for the first time she projected herself into a character totally unlike her own."
"Her psychological "reconstruction," as she called it, presented her protagonist as the vicitim of sexual determinism."
"Elsie's extreme sexuality leads directly to murder in Delafield's analysis; and in her fictional equation, romantic temperament plus physical susceptibility equals destruction."
MRS. HARTER: 1924
"...a tragedy of star-crossed lovers."
THE CHIP AND THE BLOCK: 1925
"Delafield continues her inquiry into the physical side of love with The Chip and the Block. Paul Ellery, the central protagonist of this rambling novel, finds in the arms of his landlady, Mrs. Foss, salvation from a false, sentimental attachment. This vital widow listens to unawakened Paul recount the kinds of emotional blackmail Gladys St. Lawrence and her manipulative mother use to get him to propose, and then convinces him that Gladys does not love him. If she did, Mrs. Foss declares, she would show it."
THE ENTERTAINMENT: 1926
Short stories. Includes: THE ENTERTAINMENT; THE PHILISTINE; O TEMPORA! O MORES!; INCIDENTAL; THE LUGGAGE IN THE HALL: AN UN-MORAL STORY; ". . . AND NEVER THE TWAIN SHALL MEET"; BLAIIRGOWRIE; "THIS IS ONE WAY ROUND . . ."; THE TORTOISE; REFLEX ACTION; HOLIDAY GROUP; THE WAITING LADY; TERMINUS; A TALE OF THE TIMES; REPARATION; THE THRESHOLD OF ETERNITY
"Jill, the symbolic title character, emerges as Delafield's first heroine. Her mother is a kept woman who relinquishes Jill first to Jack and Doreen and then to Cathie and Oliver, but none of the perversions of love which mark her three envrionements can touch her. She stands for joy, vitality, and purity; and when Jack has divorced himself from the sterile amorality represented by Doreen, Jill marries him."
THE WAY THINGS ARE: 1927
"Thoughtful, insightful, and accurate, The Way Things Are is an important document in the history of women's literature. With its themes of entrapment and renunciation, it is in many ways an angry book, a compelling full-length portrait of an intelligent, sensitive woman chained to deadening domesticity."
WHAT IS LOVE: 1928 (U.S. Title: FIRST LOVE)
"What is Love ironically contrasts traditional and modern love through two cousins, one a romantic "Sleeping Princess" who cannot see reality, and the other a smart, self-confident modern."
THE SUBURBAN YOUNG MAN: 1928
"Only two years after Jill Delafield could find no realistic basis for romantic love. The Suburban Young Man, her second novel in 1928, is one which she always regretted writing."
WOMEN ARE LIKE THAT: 1929
TURN BACK THE LEAVES: 1930
"Turn Back the Leaves tells of the demise of an English Catholic family, and it so resonantly treats the ubi sunt theme that English Catholicism itself becomes the subject."
CHALLENGE TO CLARISSA: 1931 (U.S. Title: HOUSE PARTY)
"...the wealthy and egotistical title character's challenge is to halt the course of young love. She fails -- as does the novel. The latter's firm organization, fine supporting cast, and comic scenes cannot hold up the dead weight of the bland ingenue parts and their pallid romantic conflict."
THANK HEAVEN FASTING: 1932 (U.S. Title: A GOOD MAN'S LOVE)
"This polished, compact novel is a deep and deeply ironic evocation of the atmosphere of a vanished way of life, and it gains great sociocultural authority as the carefully detailed record of one who knew."
"Monica, and to a lesser extent the Marlowe sisters, symbolizes the traditional training of upper-class Edwardian women. Monica is the epitome of the Delafield character who can never grasp reality. She is imaged repeatedly as living the life of a fictional character, enmeshed in the unreal daydream of the Tradition."
GAY LIFE: 1933
"For her only non-English setting Delafield chose a resort hotel on the French Riviera , where her mostly English tourists, all from different social "worlds," must interact in unfamiliar surroundings."
"Its three plots fit solidly into the Delafield canon. All three deal with the perversion of love by cynical moderns."
FASTER! FASTER!: 1936
"...a novel of mid-life crisis..."
"Claudia Winsloe finds herself trapped by the twin responsibilities of career and family. The harder she works, the faster she moves, the more out of touch with herself and others she becomes."
"The plot first sets her up as a modern superwoman -- talented, tireless, and selfless -- and then attacks her for those very qualities. One after another those close to her discover that her actions stem from her "power complex"."
"Increasingly isolated, she grows in the novel's terms more and more "unreal" -- out of touch with everything, understood by no one."
"Her daughter recalls asking Delafield, "is that a book all about you?" and her mother answering "Yes." "She was being spiteful about herself," Rosamund recalls, because of something "quite unkind" that a friend had said about her."
NOTHING IS SAFE: 1937
"Nothing is Safe continues Delafield's concern for the contemporary family. It chronicles the effects of divorce on two children during their summer holiday. The breakup of their home makes a chaos of their lives as they are pushed back and forth between parents whose lives have now no place for them."
"Although this novel does not seem to be based closely on Delafield's own life, except as imaginative projection, two of its characters came directly from it: her children Lionel and Rosamund were the models from which she drew (in some instances copied) Terry and Julia."
LOVE HAS NO RESURRECTION: 1941
Short stories. "the best of the three" collections. McCullen has next to nothing to say about the other two.
NO ONE NOW WILL KNOW: 1942
"The great sense of loss in this novel, the vivid impression of things sliding, passing, lost beyond recall, faithfully reflects her deepest fears during wartime."
LATE AND SOON: 1943
"Delafield took her title from Wordsworth's famous sonnet, "The World is Too Much With Us," and the spirit and movement of her last novels follows that of the poem -- from the material, confining world which "Wastes our powers" to the free world of natural, spontaneous emotion. Delafield characters had struggled from her first novel onward to repress their desires for a "romantic miracle" and to join instead the world of objective reality. In Late and Soon, however, the claims of the "real" world are challenged and, surprisingly in the light of her career, disavowed."
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