Elizabeth von Arnim
Read by Lucy Scott
Lucy Entwhistle and Everard Wemyss, both recovering from recent unhappiness, meet and quickly fall in love. However, over their new-found bliss looms the spectre of Vera, Wemyss’s first wife who died in mysterious circumstances. After their wedding the couple return home and Lucy really does begin to be troubled by what happened to Vera. Considered a high-water mark by the author, the story is an extraordinarily black vision of a young wife who gradually begins to understand that her husband will accept nothing less than total intellectual and emotional servitude.
Running Time: 7 h 54 m
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Digital ISBN: 978-1-78198-416-1 Cat. no.: NA0552 Produced by: John Foley Edited by: Andrew Riches BISAC: FIC004000 BIC: FC Released: September 22
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Everard Wemyss spots Lucy Entwistle, looking lost, gazing over the gate of her Cornish cottage. Her father had died just that day. Everard has problems too; he is desperately lonely, shunned by society after his wife died having fallen from an upper window of their home. Naive and adoring, Lucy is swept into marriage by him, only to find herself expected to live in the Surrey house where Everard’s first wife died, surrounded by memorials to their marriage. ‘Wuthering Heights written by Jane Austen,’ was the essayist John Middleton Murry’s description of this 1921 novel; ‘witty and well-constructed, a sort of sparkling Euclid,’ wrote the novelist Rebecca West.
Vera is utterly different from Elizabeth von Arnim’s gently amusing novels The Enchanted April and The Caravaners (though that too featured a bombastic, narcissistic husband); it is blackly comic, keeping the listener agog with anticipation as Lucy begins to understand her predecessor’s desperation and her aunt tries desperately to intervene. Wemyss was an instantly recognisable caricature of Von Arnim’s second husband Frank Russell, a peer and older brother of the philosopher Bertrand Russell. The ensuing media scandal when he threatened to sue her for libel distracted from Vera’s literary merits.
Lucy Scott has an agreeably low, immensely expressive voice. Avoiding the overemphatic narration that mars so many audiobooks, she skilfully brings out to the full the novel’s unusual combination of humour and tragedy.
Christina Hardyment, The Times
Similarities to Daphne du Maurier’s classic novel Rebecca are noticeable in this audiobook, and the suspense is capably delivered by narrator Lucy Scott. Lucy Entwhistle has just lost her father, and widowed businessman Everard Wemyss observes the young woman’s hardship at the same time that he is trying to escape his own. The ensuing May–December romance unfolds discreetly, thanks to Scott’s subtle delivery of irony and humor. Before listeners know it, Scott has led them into a story of mystery and unease, power and intimidation, and the audiobook becomes impossible to turn off. There are times when characters become a bit exaggerated, with voices nearing the edges of credibility, but the overall effect of Scott’s performance is solid.