Thursday, April 21, 2022

1954 Club: Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead by Barbara Comyns

 

Within a few weeks funerals were to become a common occurrence in that village; but at this time they were rather scarce and looked forward to eagerly.

I've read several books by Barbara Comyns and was delighted to find out one of them had been published in 1954 -- perfect for Simon and Kaggsy's 1954 Club event. Even better, I found out my local library had a copy of this book, a weirdly twisted take on village country life. 


Set in Warwickshire during the early part of the 20th century, the story begins with a flood so high that ducks are swimming through the windows of the Wildweed family home, a large household consisting of Ebin Wildweed; this three children, Emma, Dennis, and Hattie; the matriarch, Ebin's cantankerous mother; and two servants, sisters Norah and Eunice. The banks of the nearby river have overflowed into the house and caused havoc throughout the surrounding villages.

The ducks swam through the drawing-room windows. The weight of water had forced the windows open; so the ducks swam in. Round the room they sailed quacking their approval; then they sailed out again to explore the wonderful new world that had come in the night.



It's the beginning of June and the floodwaters soon subside. What follows that summer is slightly sordid and increasingly unsettling; quirky and eccentric behavior among the village residents turns dark, violent, and tragic. I should probably give more details about the plot but I don't think I can without giving too much away.

This book was a quick read, less than 200 pages in a smallish paperback format. I could have probably read it in one sitting, but I did have to take breaks because I found it a little creepy. I've read six of Comyn's books and they've all been darkly quirky in a similar way. 


Some of her other novels have recently been reprinted by Turnpike Books and also by Daunt books; I've already ordered one of them, Mr. Fox. A couple of her works are nearly impossible to find, hopefully the reprints will find an audience and the others will follow. 

Thanks again to Simon and Kaggsy for organizing this reading event! I'm hoping to read two or even three more novels so fingers crossed I'll get them finished and posted in time. 

8 comments:

  1. Oh thank you for reminding me of this. I put it on a long TBR list several years ago but had not been able to find a copy, but I find that the library has a copy. It sounds like such an engaging story. I like a book you can read in one sitting, I always feel like it is a different experience from breaking the read up over a series of days or weeks.

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    1. I'm pretty sure I also read Our Spoons Came From Woolworth's in one sitting also. I like that Comyns' books are surreal but short, if they were longer I think they wouldn't be as appealing.

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  2. This does sound fun and I haven't across anything by this author previously! My last assignment for the semester is due tomorrow so I will have some relaxed time ahead to catch up with some new authors.

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    1. I really liked it but I don’t know if describe it as fun, it’s a little creepy and surreal. There are definitely some dark moments!

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  3. I love this novel, from that marvellous opening line onwards. I haven't seen that final cover before - what a dustjacket!

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    1. I think it might be the original cover art!

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  4. Sounds weirdly interesting. Quirky can be refreshing sometimes. Just the image of the ducks swimming through the windows, taking a look around, and exiting is enough to spark my interest.

    I've said it before, you always find such interesting books to read and review!

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  5. I like the sound of this and I love all the different covers! I leave for London two weeks from today - I will have to be very disciplined about the books I buy or I will not be able to stagger home.

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