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Anne Severn and the Fieldings

May Sinclair

Book Overview: 

Written in an era of cheap, formulaic romantic fiction, the nuanced, seditious, quietly erotic novels of May Sinclair stand out like literature from another era entirely. There is romance in “Anne Severn & the Fieldings,” but it’s romance of the best and profoundest kind, set in the context of authentic human personalities and tragic historical events. The motherless Anne Severn is adopted into the Fielding family and grows up in intimate friendship with the three Fielding sons, all of whom love her. World War I explodes into their lives with hideous effect, sending all three sons back damaged in one way or another. Anne herself sees the horrors of war as an ambulance driver, meeting along the way (in a whimsical little self-referential sentence) a “queer little middle-aged lady out for a job at the front” whom we recognize as May Sinclair herself, who volunteered for just such an adventure in 1914. Sinclair always was half-Victorian, half-modern, so it is no surprise to find her using subtle, lovely, dreamlike, decorous prose to undermine social conventions on all sides. Most startling, perhaps, is the unambiguous sexuality that complicates the lives of her characters, troubling marriages and consummating true love. She creates personalities about whom we care much more than we care about proprieties and social boundaries, and Anne Severn stands as one of Sinclair’s most courageous and compelling heroines

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .the charm on its own account, or whether the pleasure of being with her was simply part of the blessed state of being at Wyck-on-the-Hill. Enough that Auntie Adeline was there where Uncle Robert and Eliot and Colin and Jerrold were; she belonged to them; she belonged to the house and garden; she stood with the flowers.

Anne was walking with her now, gathering roses for the house. The garden was like a room shut in by the clipped yew walls, and open to the sky. The sunshine poured into it; the flagged walks were pale with heat.

Anne's cat, Nicky, was there, the black Persian that Jerrold had given her last birthday. He sat in the middle of the path, on his haunches, his forelegs straight and stiff, planted together. His face had a look of sweet and solemn meditation.

"Oh Nicky, oh you darling!" she said.

When she stroked him he got up, arching his back and carrying his tail in a flouri. . . Read More

Community Reviews

2.5 stars. I liked the other books I have read by her (The Three Sisters, The Life and Death of Harriett Frean, Mary Olivier: A Life, History of Anthony Waring) better than this one. I feel that she took too long to tell her story. The story line wasn’t that bad...it followed the life of Anne Severn

The ending and the cod psychology spoiled this for me. It was all a bit Wings of the Dove and Golden Bowl for my liking, but of course much more intelligible. Sinclair wrote like an angel, her descriptions of places are extraordinarily vivid and of course she was brilliant at creating appalling char

This is a wonderful, romantic book. Sinclair has sensitive, psychological insights into her characters. The protagonist, Anne starts this book as a child, thrust into a family of three boys when her mother dies. Her relationships with the three brothers matures in interesting ways over the course of

Another Dodo Press “forgotten classic” reissue, and I… think I liked it? This 1922 novel full of pastoral England and WWI and an emerging, evolving amorality is not quite a family saga, not quite a romance, and not quite an insightful window into its time and place, but it is a little bit of all tho