Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Read in 2016 - 12: The Spoils of Poynton

It is not my habit to post twice in one day, but because I want to get my latest review out of the way and resume my Jersey travelogue as quickly as possible, today is an exception.

Not my picture - found it on the internet. Mine was, of course, the free kindle version.

"The Spoils of Poynton" was not my first novel by Henry James, but while I won't go as far as saying it was my last, I am not going to start looking now for all of his works at Amazon's kindle shop.

The cast of "Poynton" consists of few characters, of which only three really bring the story forward: Fleda Vetch, Mrs. Gereth and her son Owen.

Widowed Mrs. Gereth has no greater delight in life than her own impeccable taste when it comes to "things" - antique furniture and artefacts that adorn Poynton, the family home. In fact, they ARE her life, and she feels closer to them than she does to her own son.
While being guest at someone else's house, she meets Fleda, a young woman of very modest means. The two ladies, outwardly so different, recognize a kindred spirit in each other when it comes to the all-important matter of taste, and become friends.

Owen, sadly not having inherited the refined taste, falls in love with the daughter of the house, much to his mother's chagrin. She perceives their hosts as being vulgar and coarse with no understanding or even appreciation of true beauty.

She would be most happy if Owen was to marry Fleda, a woman she'd willingly give up all her treasures for. But love does not obey commands, and soon Mrs. Gereth and Fleda find themselves in an impossible situation.

Will Owen go against his mother's wishes and marry Mona, or can Fleda indeed be The One for him? Does Mrs. Gereth have to give up her beloved Poynton and all its spoils?

I must admit I was surprised by the end, and a tiny bit disappointed. The novel itself was a good read, though, and gave quite an insight into women's (and men's) different stations in society. "Poynton" was first published in a periodical in 1896, and a year later as a book. How things have changed since then, how many more possibilities to live our lives largely as we choose do we have now! (At least in my part of the world.)

The overall feel of the book's style was very good, often very precise, the way I like it. But Mr. James did love his long-winding sentences, and I don't always see the point in writing like that, apart from an author wanting to show off. A piece of writing does not have to consist of five-word-sentences to please me, but sentences that run over half the page are simply not necessary.


  1. Thanks for the review, it sounds mildly interesting but I think I will skip reading this book.

    1. Frankly, you won't miss out on very much, Terra.
      I have found out that there was a 4 part (BBC?) drama made of the book in the 1970s, maybe I'll look for it.

  2. I read one or two Henry James in the past, but never added him to my "must read more for pure pleasure" list :)

  3. I think I saw this on Public Television years ago, and I bet it was the British drama. I remember it fondly but with no details. I just read Gemma Jones is in it, who is always wonderful.

    1. I guess I'll have a look for it online; I won't buy a DVD but can possibly find it somewhere to watch for free.