A HERITAGE AND ITS HISTORY by I. Compton-Burnett

A HERITAGE AND ITS HISTORY

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Ivy Compton-Burnett has launched another missile and, like her numerous earlier novels, this one is far out. So far, indeed, that it will undoubtedly be beyond the reach of the average reader, though a thing of joy to her devotees. The Challoners, an unusually close-knit family of the landed aristocracy, are all interested in who will inherit the estate and the title. A simple thing, one would imagine, except that Sir Edwin refuses to die and even takes a wife at 69, after his beloved brother passes on. Further complicating matters-- Simon, the obvious heir, fathers a son by Sir Edwin's wife, disinheriting himself. Simon marries and produces five children, one of whom, twenty years later, wants to marry the young heir, her half-brother. Miss Compton-Burnett succeeds in making incest a rather forbidding vice, but she does manage to restore to family conversation some of the malicious sparkle and wit absent from most hearthsides today. From two year old to grandparent, everyone enjoys sticking needles in each others' carefully nourished sore spots. ""It is a question that must be asked""; ""You cannot leave it unsaid""; ""I like to have things put into words"",- these are key sentences in the novel, pointing to both its strengths and its weaknesses. The complete candor, the entertaining outrageousness of saying things often thought but never expressed, and, on the other hand, the endless overexposure of the characters and the heartlessness of the writing-- these qualities tend to balance each other out for most readers, but there are some to whom it is a delightful combination.

Pub Date: Jan. 28th, 1959
Publisher: Simon & Schuster