Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead, 4/81
This is an utterly bizarre and tremendously enjoyable read. This novel follows a summer in the lives of professional idler Ebin Willoweed and his family: the perennially unhappy and tyrannical Grandmother Willoweed, the family servants, and Ebin's three children, including the daughter who is clearly the product of her mother's affair, as she is half black, and Ebin Willoweed is not. One might think that this forms the storyline, but it does not. Hattie Willoweed is completely accepted by family and community. Her mother's infidelity adds a layer to the already dysfunctional antics of the Willoweeds. The real story is miserable plague, which follows close on the heels of a flood. As villagers become horribly ill then commit suicide in fits of fury, it becomes clear that something strange is afflicting the town. Comyns recounts for us what happens to the undeniably bizarre Willoweeds in a bizarre set of circumstances. The consequences are bittersweet and surprising. I stayed up late reading this book- it really kept my attention, and I read it all in one sitting.
Barbara Comyns, Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead (Penguin, 1987) ISBN: 0140161589
Category: Virago Modern Classics, 2/9, 4/81