THE BALLAD AND THE SOURCE by Rosamond Lehmann
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THE BALLAD AND THE SOURCE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A psychological novel -- keyed to the market of such books as Strange Woman and Leave Her To Heaven but immeasureably beyond them in subtlety and craftsmanship, in nuance and implication. The manner of the telling is oblique -- but in final analysis -- wholly satisfying. The central figure -- Mrs. Jardine -- fascinating, mysterious, wistfully charming, is seen chiefly through the enchanted eyes of the little girl down the hill, Rebecca, who tells the story. Ten, when the Jardines come home to England -- fourteen when the war has brought everything into new focus -- Rebecca grows into knowledge, into reluctant awareness that her idol is not divine, through hearing her story from varied angles. There are the veiled, scarcely understood intimations of grown-ups; there is the vivid recapturing, in smallest detail, of the past -- as the ancient servant speaks; there is Mrs. Jardine's own story of herself, an outpouring made to any listening ear -- even a worshipping child's; there is Maizie, awkward, rebellious, hating Maizie, Mrs. Jardine's granddaughter. And through each raconteur, the reader's knowledge of the malignant, possessive, dangerous charm of Sybil Jardine grows in intensity. A woman who poisoned all she touched -- who cared only while she possessed -- who had great gentleness and courage and ability when she wished it. A woman who had destroyed two husbands, and many lovers, a daughter, a friend, and warped the lives of her grandchildren. And at at the close, even the extreme of madness, punishment meted out to the daughter, left the mother almost untouched, still -- in her own strange way -- triumphant, dramatizing her sorrows. An oddly haunting book, expertly handled.

Pub Date: April 2nd, 1945
Publisher: Reynal & Hitchcock