The Long View by Elizabeth Jane Howard

This book was first published in 1956 and it seems to be the second book by Elizabeth Jane Howard, she has had a very long career though as she had a book published just last year. I think I have read some of her other books but so long ago that I can’t remember them.

The structure of The Long View is very unusual, I think. It’s not uncommon for action to jump around in books but it usually goes backwards and forwards in time, sometimes giving the perspective from different characters. However this one is unusual in that the book is divided into five parts and part one is headed 1950.

Sixty pages on and you get to part two, and we’ve moved back in time to 1942. Part three begins in 1937. Part four in 1927, and part five is just one year earlier in 1926.

So it feels a bit disjointed as you move back in time, instead of the story progressing you rewind, and in the end I think it was an interesting experience, definitely different, but enjoyable.

It’s amazing that I did enjoy it because I disliked Conrad so much, and Conrad is there for most of the book. Antonia had the misfortune to marry him and he is the reason why I couldn’t get Under My Thumb out of my head whilst I was reading. He’s a complete control freak and when Antonia marries him she doesn’t know anything about him, doesn’t even know what he does for a living, but money doesn’t seem to be a problem.

Conrad Fleming is quite a bit older than Antonia who is a young 20, he buys her clothes, tells her she must grow her hair, tells her to get out of bed and put scent on! Conrad designs the perfect wife for himself. He bought them a house to live in which she hadn’t even seen. Antonia doesn’t really exist as a person to him. I hated him, and the book is really about how Antonia finds herself married to him.

It’s something that we all wonder about I suppose – how did such and such a couple get together and why? This is the story of Mr and Mrs Fleming and it begins with the engagement of their son, and a few more couples play parts in the story, which ends up being quite circular in some ways. It’s obviously quite autobiographical.

Here’s a taster: She woke to the pleasure of the empty house – the sunlit evening after a hot day. While she had slept, the roses in the bowl beside her had yawned so widely that they had shed their outside petals in an ecstacy of exhaustion … I love that image of the roses yawning.

If you want to know more about the author have a look here. It’s fascinating.

6 thoughts on “The Long View by Elizabeth Jane Howard

  1. I haven’t read this one, although I’ve read The Cazalet Chronicles and a couple more of her books, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I also have Slipstream and for some unknown reason I haven’t read it yet :)- I hope to get round to it one day.

    The structure of the book – moving back in time – is an interesting one, I think. Andrew Taylor used it in his Roth Trilogy, although slightly different because it was the first book that happened last in time and so on, back to the beginning in book 3.

    • Margaret,
      I’ve got a feeling that it was The Cazalet Chronicles which I read. I almost borrowed one of her books from the library the other day but I put it back on the shelf when I reminded myself how many books of my own I have to read! I thought it was a new one but it must have been a reprint.
      I haven’t read anything by Andrew Taylor, do you recommend trying him?

      • Well, I liked Andrew Taylor’s books. The first of the Roth Trilogy is The Four Last Things, which is so tense and scary that I nearly stopped reading it and only continued because I couldn’t get the story out of my head and I wanted to know how it ended. The second book, The Judgement of Strangers is nowhere nearly as scary. Other reading got in the way of reading the last book, The Office of the Dead, but I will read it. The series was televised as Fallen Angel with Emilia Fox and Charles Dance.

        I’ve read one other book by Taylor – The American Boy, historical crime fiction set in 19th century London. I liked that one too. He’s written loads of books – I’d really like to read more, if only I had more time …

        • Margaret,
          I didn’t see that series. I think I’ll try The Four Last Things though, even though I’m not good with scary books! There are loads of his books in the Fife catalogue and I can’t recall ever seeing any. Thanks for the info.

  2. Wonder if she had a narcissistic, controlling man in her life? One I read a few years ago was about a narcissist that the main female of the story was lucky to get away from before he killed her for her money. He was a sociopath. Falling was the name of it. I also read something in disguise and it had a controlling male. I do enjoy her books though!

    • Peggy Ann,
      I think she had a lot of ‘difficult’ men in her life, mind you she obviously wasn’t easy to live with either! The one about the chap who was after her for her money was written from experience but her family looked into his background before she married him, so she had a lucky escape!

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