The Loving Spirit is Daphne’s first novel, and it reads like it was written by Kenneth Parcell in full story-telling mode, all ‘kind, they were‘ and ‘sinful, it was.’ Once I got that voice in my head…
So. Janet Coombe, feisty young thing, settles and marries. And she spends the first third of the novel being all, I can’t help but think of those that will come after us, our children, and our children’s children until you’re all YES, we get it, Generational Saga. Now go on with your emotional wanderings and your boyish desires to sail until you have a couple kids, the third of whom will be your favorite and who will build a ship called The Janet Coombe and through whom you will live vicariously.
And this is where you get the ‘incest.’ Janet is always clutching her son Joseph to her bosom and he is always trying to pull her hair pins out and they are always sharing secret glances, and while nothing specifically untoward ever happens you definitely get the sense that the want it to. It is the utmost extremity of Not Actual Incest.
Oh, and also, when Janet is in full blown GENERATIONAL SAGA mode and is all (to her husband) ‘In a hundred years there’ll be two others standin’ here, Thomas, same as us now – an’ they’ll be blood of our blood an’ flesh of our flesh’ and you’re all Mercy, certainly not both of them. But yes, in the end Great-granddaughter Jennifer marries her…what is it when your parents are cousins? Her second cousin? First cousin once removed? Somebody British help me out.
But we haven’t gotten there yet. Janet *spoiler* dies, and then Joseph is a TORTURED SOUL who must SAIL to FLEE from his LONELINESS until he also marries and has several babies. Generational Sagas are nothing without some aggressive begetting.
Several more Fairly Tragic And At Least Partially His Fault events befall Joseph before he *spoiler* dies and this is where the novel goes rapidly downhill. Because Daphne has little to no interest in Joseph’s son, the weak and cowardly Christopher (who *spoiler* makes good in the end before *spoiler* dying), and his daughter Jennifer, who is more like a line-drawing of an Independant Gal than an actual person.
It’s an insular little book, for all its seafaring and to-London-occasionally-going. The war seeps in at one point, and the fact that women now go about on tubes and buses by themselves at another, but for the most part it cycles around Janet Coombe, who though *spoiler* dead, is weirdly and spectrally present and almost the only thing that makes this one worth reading.
But I am Daphne’s mind-bitch for the next three months, so on to I’ll Never Be Young Again to see if she improved rapidly, or if it took a few more kicks at the can.
This one gets six caterpillars for being awesomely vengeful in parts, and containing at least one Total House Conflagration (and a mad relative, but separately).