THE DOWER HOUSE by Annabel Davis-Goff


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 A richly comic, tender evocation of Ireland's dwindling, splendid Anglo-Irish. Motherless since eight, Molly Hassard, our fresh and delightful protagonist, lives with father Tibby, a charmer ``with a disinclination to face inconvenient realities,'' a man who would rather shoot himself than sit and watch his caste's slow dying. The two make their home in the Dower House, attached to the main grand house of Dromore, where live Uncle Miles, Aunt Belinda, and Molly's languid cousin Sophie, who's her own age. Aunt Belinda forthrightly rescues Dromore from demolition after Miles's father's death; his thundering will actually designated the money to have it blown to bits. The modest, ``plain'' Molly whiles away her time in Dromore chatting with the much more restless Sophie. She's lovingly but firmly infused with tribal training by Belinda, from marmalade- making to the niceties of proper dinner seating. Only two major events involve major campaigns by Belinda, the maiden aunt Vera, and their array of servants: the coming-out party of the lawyer's sweetheart, and Sophie's hasty bad marriage to a wealthy Brit. Molly seems to be marked instead for Aunt Vera-hood, or at the least for life as a humble Keeper of the Flame in architecturally pristine houses, worn and damp yet crammed anyhow with the past's beautiful ``leftovers,'' all sited within a countryside of pastoral loveliness. Instead, she heads off to school in London, lives peacefully with two ancient aunts, goes to work for an elderly author, and meets up eventually with handsome, witty, flattering Gerald. He and she slog through some failed lovemaking; and Gerald, like Sophie, is rootless, tied to no real place of his own. Finally, though, Molly finds her man and makes her home elsewhere. The author of two well-received novels and an autobiography, Walled Gardens (1989), appropriately dedicates this to William Maxwell, who can also call forth a world in a single detail. Fine and poignant.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-312-17028-9
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1998


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