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Compton-Burnett, Ivy

family novel

(British, 1884–1969)

Compton-Burnett's life was disrupted and embittered by a succession of family tragedies, due to both combat and suicides, during the First World War. Though she published a novel as early as 1911, it was not until Pastors and Masters (1925) that she struck her authentic note of sharply observed family relations and astringent dialogue. The novel is set in a ghastly small private school, and dissects the mixed motives of staff and parents. The similarly titled works that followed usually have late-Victorian or Edwardian domestic settings and depict unsatisfactory relationships and family power struggles; outstanding are A House and Its Head (1935) and Elders and Betters (1944). The bitter conflict between a widower and his eldest daughter over his proposed remarriage in The Mighty and Their Fall (1955) draws on Compton-Burnett's younger self.

Jane Austen, Evelyn Waugh  JS

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