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A House and Its Head (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – February 28, 2001
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About the Author
Francine Prose is the author of three collections of stories and ten novels. Her most recent novel, The Blue Angel, was nominated for the National Book Award.
Top Customer Reviews
A HOUSE AND ITS HEAD, like so many of Ivy Compton-Burnett's novels, reads something like a modern updating of a Greek tragedy: most of the novel is told through dialogue, there is a kind of chorus that comments on the action of the principal characters, and the plot involves murder, incest, and familial cruelty. Yet for all these borrowings Compton-Burnett paradoxically remains wonderfully sui generis: no one else has ever mastered her capability for evoking such extreme subtlety in manners that the merest cruel nuances can become evoked (if one reads carefully enough). She is also a master plotter: just when you think you've caught up with the characters' schemes, she allows the other characters in the novel to make similar realizations, and then jumps even further ahead. This is a real page-turner as well as a subtle commentary on Edwardian manners and moral monstrousness.
Her fiction is remarkable for two reasons. Her dialogue, for one, which she uses to convey her characters' identities, their tensions, complexities, resentments, repressions and sometimes their - and always CB's - savage irony.
By savage, I mean that CB is a wonderful Swiftian ironist/satirist, and scalpel-sharp. This is the other reason why her fiction stands out. You can trace her influence on other notable modernists, in particular and most especially William Gaddis (e.g., Recognitions, Carpenter's Gothic, and Jr), Henry Green (e.g., Loving; Living; Party Going), the dialogue from the early plays of Harold Pinter Complete Works, Vol. 1 and sometimes Samuel Beckett.
In her fiction CB has a set of themes she returns to time and again - you could call them obsessions, in a way, from the Victorian repressive household settings, to the patriarchal, remote, powerfully domineering father/husband of the household, to the anaesthetised (dream-state-like) wives.Read more ›