Britain's not-quite-newly mobile social order is vividly portrayed in this comical tour de force by veteran writer Ellis. An old family in Wales has gathered at its manor house to attend the dying of the family patriarch, the Captain. Mischievous heroine Rose, the daughter of the local vet, is married to Henry, the eldest son and heir. Michael, the you...
Britain's not-quite-newly mobile social order is vividly portrayed in this comical tour de force by veteran writer Ellis. An old family in Wales has gathered at its manor house to attend the dying of the family patriarch, the Captain. Mischievous heroine Rose, the daughter of the local vet, is married to Henry, the eldest son and heir. Michael, the younger son, is married to conservative, snobbish Angela. A repressed younger sister, Ermyn, longs only to become a nun. Ellis's satire includes those belowstairs, too. Housekeeper Phyllis, once the mainstay of the great house, now divides her days between nursing the Captain and cooking treats for her plump grandson, Gomer, who does nothing at all. Phyllis's son, known in the family as Jack the Liar, gets drunk as often as possible and settles for idleness the rest of the time. A pet ewe named Virginia Woolf wanders about. The quaint village of Llanelys, where the family lives, sports modern signs of commerce in Welsh and English; these days, instead of raising sheep, the locals fleece tourists for a living. Ellis's hilarious narrative moves briskly, helped by prose that is precise and illustrative, without a wasted word. Anglophiles will love this book, more evidence from Booker short-lister Ellis (Fairy Tale) that the British have not lost the knack for self-mockery.
From the Publisher
In Alice Thomas Ellis's first novel, originally published in 1977, a troubled family gathers at a house in Wales, uneasily attending upon the clan's failing patriarch. Ellis's tale is characterized by caustic, startling wit, a spare and intense lyricism, and profound insight into the way eternity haunts quotidian inconsequence.
Alice Thomas Ellis (also writes as Anna Margaret Haycraft), is a novelist and columnist. She was born in Liverpool, England in 1932. She attended Bangor Grammar School and the Liverpool School of Art. Ellis wrote a weekly column for the Spectator from 1985 to 1989 and for the Catholic Herald from 1990 to 1996. She co-wrote two books on juvenile delinquency with psychiatrist Tom Pitt-Atkins. Ellis also wrote A Welsh Childhood, a book recounting the history of Wales and featuring the photographs of Patrick Sutherland. Ellis has written several novels beginning with The Sin Eater in 1977. The novel won the Welsh Arts Council Award. Other novels include Unexplained Laughter which won the Yorkshire Post Novel of the Year in 1985 and The Inn at the End of the World which was the winner of the Writer's Guild Award for Best Fiction in 1991. Another novel, The 27th Kingdom, received a Booker Prize Nomination in 1982. She was also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature from 1999 until her death in 2005, due to lung cancer.