Great Granny Webster (New York Review Books Classics)
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Great Granny Webster is Caroline Blackwood's masterpiece. Heiress to the Guinness fortune, Blackwood was celebrated as a great beauty and dazzling raconteur long before she made her name as a strikingly original writer. This macabre, mordantly funny, partly auto-biographical novel reveals the gothic craziness behind the scenes in the great houses of the aristocracy, as witnessed through the unsparing eyes of an orphaned teenage girl. Great Granny Webster herself is a fabulous monster, the chilliest of matriarchs, presiding with steely self-regard over a landscape of ruined lives.
you faint, apparently all the blood in your veins automatically congeals. How on earth was one meant to know that fainting could be so fatal?” This soliloquy, which Aunt Lavinia delivered in exactly the same breathlessly mannered and laughing way that she told amusing anecdotes at her cocktail parties, I found horrifying. She kept repeating that it was “infuriating” that she had failed in her attempt, but she gave me no feeling that she was asking for any sympathy for the ugly and despairing
around a bit,” she said. “I feel I have the right to be frank with you. I can tell you when your clothes really strike me as too deeply awful.” The sun was streaming through the impeccably polished panes of Aunt Lavinia’s large bay windows and creating brilliant pools of light on her white carpets. All at once she placed her hand across her eyes, and her newly varnished scarlet fingernails were like oval spots of blood against her pale forehead. “The sun looks very odd to me today,” she said.
Aunt Lavinia had always seen everything in life as a lottery and therefore assumed that everybody must see it as she did. In his opinion my father would have had to have been a fool to think that, however much he tried to ingratiate himself with Great Granny Webster, he could ever end up inheriting her fortune. “One only had to take one look at that old woman’s face to realise that someone as trenchantly ungenerous in life would have to be just as ungenerous in death. No one but an idiot could
it seems to be clouding over.” “Well, I think that will really be quite enough for one day. Could you please now drive us home.” After the glare on the sea-front her house never appeared darker than when we got back from our afternoon drives. It seemed like a great gloomy, mysterious shrine that had been piously erected to commemorate something even more gloomy and mysterious than itself. It was as if every object that it contained had been chosen merely because it was heavy, expensive and
beauty in Hollywood, New York, and London, and a short career as a magazine journalist to become a writer to contend with. Seriousness would have been hard enough for such a woman to achieve without the early loss of her father and a mother like Maureen, Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava, in her youth one of the Golden Guinness Girls. The marchioness, neglectful and critical of her children, had disapproved of her daughter’s marriages to Freud and the composer Israel Citkowitz, but when Caroline