- Paperback: 626 pages
- Publisher: The Overlook Press; Reprint edition (October 5, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9781585676071
- ISBN-13: 978-1585676071
- ASIN: 1585676071
- Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.4 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (163 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #285,835 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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No Angel Paperback – October 5, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Bestselling British author Vincenzi follows the tumultuous lives of London's Lytton family through the early 20th century in her first novel to be published in the U.S. At the story's center is Lady Celia Beckenham, a strong-willed, blue-blooded beauty who forces her parents to bless her marriage to the lower-ranking Oliver Lytton, employed in the "rough world of publishing," by getting pregnant. Taking her maternal duties in stride (her ugly baby, Giles, is initially "something of a disappointment"), Celia talks her way into an editorial position at Lyttons Publishing House, and quickly proves herself a fast learner with a head full of successful ideas. As years pass and more children arrive, Celia becomes known for her editorial skills and her familial devotion. But when Oliver returns after four years of fighting in WWI, her perfect world begins to crumble he is dismayed by the books Lyttons has published under Celia's and his sister LM's guidance, and he has lost all desire for his wife. Celia seeks comfort in the arms of a handsome new author, and as she falls into an all-consuming affair, she begins to contemplate leaving Oliver: "She would have to go; go with Sebastian. Anything else was madness. She explored the decision for a few minutes, waiting for uncertainty to return. It didn't." But as Celia struggles to make her life-altering decision, events around her cause her to see herself and her family in a new light and to ponder what her life would be like if she weren't a Lytton. Through life and death, exuberance and sorrow, honor and disgrace, Vincenzi perfectly captures the intricacies of her characters and creates plots captivating enough to keep readers eyes' glued to this long and hearty saga.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
First published in England, where it sold three-million copies, this story of a proto-feminist at the turn of the century makes the transatlantic transition quite well. When the story begins, Lady Celia is an 18-year-old woman who knows what she wants, and what she wants is Oliver Lytton, heir to a publishing company. She gets pregnant to get him and quickly becomes a talented book editor at his firm; soon career and family life collide. Vincenzi does a number of things very well, including creating love affairs that seem breathlessly real. She also does well at juggling the many subplots that make up a family saga, and she knows how to paint a backdrop: Oliver's life-shaking stint in World War I, though not exactly All Quiet on the Western Front , is deftly drawn. Somewhat less successful is her portrayal of several of the feminist characters, who, when displaying their liberationist tendencies, seem more twenty-first century than early twentieth. That aside, this sprawling melodrama is a natural for the Barbara Taylor Bradford crowd. Ilene Cooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Despite the stylish 1950s fashion cover, "No Angel" is set between 1904 and 1928. Aristocratic Lady Celia has gotten herself pregnant so she can marry Oliver Lytton. The Lyttons may own a publishing house, but they are not of Celia's class. The match is a success, and easy-going Oliver and sparky Celia are a happy couple. But it seems inevitable that Celia should become restless and look for more to do than peek in on the children occasionally. She dabbles in social activism, which awkwardly ends with her fostering Barty, the little daughter of the slum family she's supposed to be observing. She carefully begins to take small part in the business of Lyttons, which is now run by Oliver and his sister LM. When the Great War breaks out, Oliver enlists, and it is up to LM and Celia to keep the publishing house that supports them all afloat.
With her brains, looks, and business sense, Celia would seem to be a slam-dunk for a charmed life. But no one's life is, least of all the Lyttons, who are as full of flaws, bad judgment, humor, and hope as anybody else. There is excellent period detail, with a fascinating look at the publishing industry in the early part of the century, social activism, family dynamics, World War I, fashion, and popular culture. One of the most pleasing aspects of the book is that Vincenzi has created strong female characters without having to resort to assigning them anachronistic behavior. They are women of their time and behave as such.
"No Angel" has an exciting ending and you will be kept on the edge of your seat to the last page. Considering the way the characters have developed, any number of possible endings would be believable. Whew! This is an adept and satisfying novel that will bring hours of pleasure. My question is: What took so long for this enjoyable writer's books to reach these shores?
The heroine of NO ANGEL is Lady Celia, a lovely debutante at the start of the novel, who sets her sights on Oliver Lytton, heir to an up-and-coming publishing firm. The year is 1904, and Celia's very proper society family is appalled by her desire to marry into "new money." Even more shocking, though, is Celia's desire to work in publishing herself. Despite her husband's misgivings, Celia joins the firm as a junior editor and surprises everyone by being absolutely brilliant at her work, soon rising through the ranks to work alongside Oliver and his sister, the imposing but secretly vulnerable LM. In the meantime, Celia is also having babies, and the challenges she faces in balancing the work she loves with her growing family will ring true for many modern working mothers.
Celia and Oliver work hard to build a life for themselves in London and soon find themselves at the center of a fabulous social circle that includes prominent writers, artists and politicians. Then World War I begins, and everything changes. Oliver spends four years at the front lines and comes back a shadow of his former self. Celia and LM, who have worked hard to keep the publishing house going in his absence, must cope with relinquishing power to the men when they return from the war. Soon, Celia, accustomed to making hard decisions in her professional life, finds herself torn by an incredibly difficult personal choice between passion and responsibility.
Although Lady Celia Lytton is the "no angel" of the book's title, and most of the novel's plots revolve around her intense personality, one of the book's riches is its immense cast of supporting players, most of whom are finely drawn, interesting characters in their own right. From Jack, Oliver's dashing but inept bachelor brother, to Barty, the young girl Celia plucks from poverty in a misguided charitable impulse, to Celia's mother, who harbors some pretty racy secrets of her own, the cast of characters spans generations, class boundaries and continents, and the plot touches all of them in turn. NO ANGEL is not great literature, but it does provide a certain level of emotional insight into all of these characters that is lacking in much popular fiction.
The plot itself rockets through all 600+ pages and the text, especially near the book's end, is broken up into small chunks of a paragraph or two, shifting the story rapidly from one character to another. If there's one flaw with the book, it's the numerous typographical errors and punctuation problems that riddle the text to the point of being distracting. The story also relies a little too heavily on coincidence and close calls, but that's OK --- that's what will keep readers turning the pages, waiting for a resolution.
Not all of the subplots are resolved, however. The author had to save something for the book's two sequels, which have already been published in the United Kingdom, where Penny Vincenzi has long been a bestselling author, and will be published in the United States by Overlook Press as well. For readers who devour NO ANGEL, these next installments in the Lytton family saga can't be published quickly enough.
--- Reviewed by Norah Piehl