THE SILKEN NET by Melvyn Bragg


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Bragg, with the same deliberate seriousness and intensity of his other novels of rural England, here teases out and tests the tensile range of what seems to be every possible thread in a doomed marriage as each partner asks from the other more than could be given. Rosemary, a volatile, richly imaginative girl, fed on her own idealized history (a vanished French childhood and parents) is awakened briefly in her twenties to the real world by a similarly attuned cousin whose neglect nearly crushes her. But she marries Edgar, a farmer's son, very much a part of the external world of money and things and who seems to possess a ""power"" for which she loves him. This Forsterian relationship is played out in contrapuntal advances and retreats to its foregone conclusion. Estrangement grows as Rosemary, spiralling into her ""impossible splendid idealism"" attempts to engineer their lives to a kind of spiritual quest for value and meaning. While Edgar, still loving Rosemary's fine ""dream of himself,"" leaves her for a woman who simply accepts him for what he is. At the last Rosemary, increasingly ill in mind and body, admits defeat by the ""silken net"" of male sexuality which ""protects them like a gladiator's net in the arena."" Bragg tends to write in densely static exposition -- of states of mind or subtle shifts of relationship -- which follow one another perfectly positioned but without movement, like a deliberate game of patience. An odd item but not without an accruing solidity and insightful speculations on love and marriage.

Pub Date: Aug. 29th, 1974
Publisher: Knopf