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.