or The Loving Huntsman
by Sylvia Townsend Warner.
Introduced by Sarah Waters.
Virago 2012 (1926)
In her introduction to this novel Sarah Waters avers that there are “a great many pleasures to be had from reading Lolly Willowes,” and I cannot disagree with her. When the title character talks about trying to find “the clue to the secret country of her mind,” when she declares that the purpose of becoming a witch is to be neither harmful nor helpful (“a district visitor on a broomstick”) but to escape it all, “to have a life of one’s own, not an existence doled out to you by others,” she adumbrates the chiefest virtue of the many pleasures the book offers us: the desire to find and to be oneself.
But there is more.
Here there is humour in great dollops; here is the expression of impatience with mundanity; here is delight in nature, in countryside walks, in books and in herbs; here there’s numb distress in the deaths of loved ones; and there are also striking similes and metaphors which are as precise as they are mysterious.
So when this novel is, rightly, recommended by readers whose judgement I value, I can do no worse than in my turn recommend it to innocent readers. For though superficially whimsical and light-hearted this is template for how to stand up for oneself, a testament to being true to oneself, and a tirade against those who’d try to make one conform to senseless deeds and ways of thought simply because they’re customary.Continue reading “A life of one’s own”