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The Constant Nymph (Virago Modern Classics) Paperback – April 18, 1996

4.0 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

She is not only a romantic but an anarchist, and she knows the ways of men and women very well indeed―ANITA BROOKNER

From the Publisher

Tessa is the daughter of a brilliant bohemian composer, Albert Sanger, who with his "circus" of precocious children, slovenly mistress, and assortment of hangers-on, lives in a rambling chalet high in the Austrian Alps. "Unbalanced, untaught, and fatally warm-hearted," the fourteen-year-old Tessa has fallen in love with Lewis Dodd, a gifted composer like her father. Confidently, she awaits maturity (and Lewis). For even his marriage to Tessa's beautiful cousin Florence cannot shatter the loving bond between Lewis and his constant nymph.
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Product Details

  • Series: Virago Modern Classics (Book 350)
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Virago (April 18, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0860683540
  • ISBN-13: 978-0860683544
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,325,685 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By K. Boullosa on August 4, 2008
Format: Paperback
"The Constant Nymph" is author and playwright Margaret Kennedy's best known work. Written in the early 1920s, this novel may seem a bit dated in its language and cultural references to modern readers, but it is absorbing and shrewdly observed, with well-drawn characters who will remain with the reader after they close the book. The novel was considered somewhat shocking at the time it was published for describing romantic/sexual attachments on the part of what, at the time, were considered young children, and delivers some passionate observations on the conflict between art and "civilization" through its characters.

The novel focuses on the Sanger family, headed up by Albert Sanger, a womanizing, self-involved English composer of some note, who has secluded himself and his family of undisciplined children in a chalet in the Austrian Tyrol. The children are from two different marriages and one liaison, and show varying degrees of their father's artistic brilliance as well as his contempt for societal norms. The household is propped up by the two eldest children, Caryl and Kate, who are already young adults and the most stable of the menagerie. The middle four children are the product of Sanger's second marriage to Evelyn Churchill, an Englishwoman of good family who cut herself off from her family to marry him, while the youngest is the product of Sanger's liaison with his current mistress (both wives are dead).

The novel opens with the almost immediate death of the seriously ill Sanger, leaving four of his five younger children parentless. The youngest child disappears from the story very soon with her mother, as do the two eldest children, who have careers of their own to follow, one as an operatic soprano and the other as a conductor.
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9 Comments 48 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback
What a discovery, this book by a British author little known in the US. Margaret Kennedy creates the atmosphere of a creative rather mad household in vivid detail. We love the Sanger children, not quite certain at the beginning who is our heroine from the way we are brought into their Alpine retreat. The omniscient point of view gives us insights on even the characters who are relatively stereotyped by today's sensibilities: the Russian ballet designer, the wealthy Jewish family friend. Kennedy's broad sympathies and wisdom on love and the relation of the sexes make this much more than a period romance or 'woman's book,', and her depiction of musical genius vs bourgeois society is complex. Read Anita Brookner's introduction afterwards--you want 'The Constant Nymph' to unfold with no preconceptions.
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Format: Paperback
Albert Sanger was a brilliant composer, English by blood, European by choice; a man of loose morals and unpredictable temperament. Following in his wake (and footsteps) is a managerie of children, both legitimate and not. This story focuses on primarily two of these children, Antonia and Tessa, (Tessa being the Constant Nymph of the title) and a young composer named Lewis Dodd whose intimate ties with the family will have far reaching effects...

So this was pretty fascinating. In some ways I couldn't help but think of the old movie "Seven Brides For Seven Brothers" when the bride arrives home only to find instead of a haven, bedlam and destruction with seven men~ her new relatives~ living like animals. This was kind of like that. Sanger's children have had no training other than an intense life-course in music. They enjoy life (or at least accept life) as they find it, but know nothing of traditional education, social graces, culture etc. They live wild and free. That is, until that momentous day when Albert Sanger dies suddenly without a penny and an aunt from England arrives to "rescue" the unfortunate children...

At times, this is a very amusing story; and yet its not a funny book. It has an almost tragic "Tess of the D'Urbervilles" feel to it. We want happiness for the characters and yet shudder to think what that may mean..

FYI: There is a sequel to this called "The Fool of The Family", which focuses on Caryl, the oldest son, a violinist.

CONTENT:
SEX: Talk of mistresses and loose living. Nothing intimate shown to reader.
VIOLENCE: None
PROFANITY: Mild (D's, B's)
MY RATING: PG
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Kennedy may be classified as a romance writer, but don't let that deter you -- if you are a romance reader, then you'll definitely like this book. The title may sound like it came from Penthouse Letters, and if you're into that kind of thing, then let this deter you, for "Constant Nymph" is just a good, clean read.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I expected to like this book, as it seems to be somewhat of a classic. But, the author obviously never heard the maxim, "show, don't tell". Perhaps that just wasn't the style back then. The 1st 2/3 of the book is very hard to get through. The characters are mostly 2-dimensional. The author simply describes them, their feelings, and their situations. They are very seldom allowed to speak for themselves. And so many of them! Difficult to keep them straight. The main female character/heroine is not really identified until the last 1/3 of the book.

I plan to watch the movie version on TCM next week to see if it is any better.
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