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The Combined Maze

May Sinclair

Book Overview: 

Ranny Ransome is an idealistic young man, devoted to exuberant gymnastic exercises and to fighting “flabbiness” in his own life, body and soul. He loves the girlish and athletic Winny Dymond, and particularly loves participating with her in the Combined Maze, a choreographed, intricate, exhilarating group gymnastic ritual in which the young men and women of the Polytechnic Gymnasium demonstrate their skills. Unfortunately, Ranny falls under the spell of the seductive Violet, a sexual free spirit who wants nothing more than to live an untrammeled life on her own terms. When, to her astonishment and horror, Violet becomes pregnant, Ranny dutifully marries her against her will, entangling himself and her in a deadly new Combined Maze of social conventions intended to suppress and subdue the elemental passions that give color to Life. May Sinclair draws her readers in with a quiet, unobtrusive, Victorian prose that seems completely in tune with the conventional proprieties of her society, but goes on in the same seditious, unassuming tone to tell stories of sensuality, adultery, seduction, divorce, and betrayal, quietly protesting the smothering conventions of a society that feared passion in all its forms. Ranny’s mesmerizing struggle to maintain his fundamental decency while remaining true to his real love hangs in the balance to the last page.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .Wandsworth, Mr. Fulleymore Ransome will give an Entertainment. Humorous Impersonations: Mr. F. Ransome. Step Dancin': Mr. F. Ransome. Ladies are requested to remove their hats. Song: Put Me Among the Girls, Mr. F. Ransome—"

"For shame, Ranny," said his mother, behind her pocket handkerchief.

"—There will be a short interval for refreshment, when festivities will conclude with a performance on the French Horn: Mr. F. Ransome."

His mother laughed as she always did (relieved that he could take it that way); but this time, through all her laughter, he could see that there was something wrong.

And in the evening, when he had returned from seeing Booty home, she told him what it was. They were alone together in the front parlor.

"Ranny," she said, suddenly; "if I were you I wouldn't bring strangers in for a bit while your father's sufferin' as he is."

"Oh, I say, Mother—"

Ranny was disconcerted, f. . . Read More

Community Reviews

I went back and forth in my level of enthusiasm for this novel of May Sinclair’s. Initially was not keen on it because the story seemed to be so dated (after all it was published in 1913). But then rather quickly I got caught up with the plot line and the characters and really liked it…until right n

This is a wonderful analysis of a marriage and its ramifications. May Sinclair is an absolute genius at creating characters who interact as real people. The Hummingbird is painfully perfect as are his wife's hopeless attempts at covering up. Everyone knows a Violet and a Mr Randall. This is so worth

In Agatha Christie's memoir, she mentions this book as one of her favorites. I have to agree with Ms. Christie, this book is one of my favorites also despite the agonizing, bittersweet story.