First published in March 2014.
As I am sure lovely readers of The Literary Sisters know by now, I am currently working through the Virago Modern Classics list. A few years ago now, some beautiful ‘Designer Collection’ books were issued by the publishing house, and I just cannot resist them. I can only hope that Virago choose to release more of them in the near future (hint, hint).
Without further ado, I chose to purchase the beautiful The Tortoise and The Hare last time I placed a book order, as Elizabeth Jenkins is an author whom I have wanted to read for a very long time. The introduction to this novel has been written by Hilary Mantel; she states that it is ‘exquisitely written’ and goes on to say that ‘Jenkins has provided a thoughtful and astringent guide to the imperatives of sexual politics – and one of which is of more than historical interest’. The novel has received some stunning reviews on the various book blogs which I hold in high esteem, and Jenkins is very well respected in terms of the stunning and perceptive books which she authored.
The Tortoise and The Hare is rather a quiet novel, as many of the Viragos tend to be, but that purely means that more focus is placed upon the beautiful writing and well drawn characters.
The novel’s blurb is quite intriguing:
“In affairs of the heart the race is not necessarily won by the swift or the fair.
Imogen, the beautiful and much younger wife of distinguished barrister Evelyn Gresham, is facing the greatest challenge of her married life. Their neighbour Blanche Silcox, competent, middle-aged and ungainly – the very opposite of Imogen – seems to be vying for Evelyn’s attention. And to Imogen’s increasing disbelief, she may be succeeding.”
It is a book about love and hate, about the very emotions which are liable to tear us, and the relationships which we have tried so very hard to build, apart. In this respect, Jenkins has done a marvellous job, highlighting the ease with which facades can slip, and the way in which single actions can destroy what is so taken for granted.
Throughout, I found the majority of the characters so very intriguing. I did not like many of them, as such, but I did become fond of Imogen towards the very end of the novel, and Tim Leeper, the young friend of Imogen and Evelyn’s son, was a real sweetheart. It is clear that Jenkins respects her characters, and everything which she envisioned has been so well set to paper.
Whilst The Tortoise and The Hare is not my favourite on the Virago list, it is a thought-provoking novel, both intelligent and witty, which I will be sure to pick up again in the future, and which I will heartily recommend.