‘The Love Child’ by Edith Olivier *****

‘The Love Child’ by Edith Olivier (Virago)

Only those who have tried to purchase this novel will know how rare it is.  It has not been in print for quite some time (my copy dates from 1982), and when I first looked for it a couple of years ago, there were no copies to be had below £80.  When I spotted this online for just £5, I simply had to have it, even with my to-read shelves groaning under the weight of unread books.  I began it on the same day that it dropped through my letterbox (after gazing at the beautiful cover for a while, of course).

This particular Virago has been introduced by Hermione Lee, who writes about the novel insightfully.  Before reading this, I had such high hopes for the book, as the few reviews which I have read of it have all been entirely positive.

The premise of The Love Child is enticing:

“At thirty-two, her mother dead, Agatha Bodenham finds herself quite alone.  She summons back to life the only friend she ever knew, Clarissa, the dream companion of her childhood.  At first Clarissa comes by night, and then by day, gathering substance in the warmth of Agatha’s obsessive love until it seems that others too can see her.  See, but not touch, for Agatha had made her love child for herself alone.  No man may approach her elfin creation of perfect beauty.  If he does, the love with summoned her can spirit her away…”

The novel is just as haunting as its plot promises.  Without giving too much away, the characters are complex and intricately crafted, and Olivier’s prose is absolutely beautiful and deserves to be savoured as far as possible.  The entirety is stunning, mesmerising and absolutely beautiful.  It certainly deserves its place on my favourites list, and is a novel which I will happily revisit each and every year to come.

(Side note: I have just seen that this is going to be reissued in a hardback edition by Macmillan Bello on the 27th of March, and I am so pleased that Olivier will be readily accessible once more!  You can preorder your copy from The Book Depository here).

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