I've said it before and will shamelessly say it again, Pushkin Press how do I love thee let me count the ways.
These are perfect hand-sized little books, superb quality bindings and covers, high grade paper, plus beautiful artwork and typeface, every aesthetically pleasing box firmly ticked.
But what use beauty on the shelves if it lies there unread?
Inevitable by Louis Couperus, first published in Dutch as Langs Lijnen van geleidelijkheid in 1900.
This translates roughly as Little By Little but with no help from babelfish which offered Along the Lines of geleidelijkheid.
I was bewitched and besotted by about page 10 because the word melancholy seemed to prevail and books on that theme always cover so much ground for me.The men of the house were all gainfully occupied elsewhere (bookhound out booktracking, the kayaker playing football down in Newlyn and the gamekeeper out on an end of season shoot) and so I awarded myself one of those precious Saturday afternoons consisting of a fire, a pot of tea, uninterrupted silence and a book.
It was a long langorous afternoon very well spent immersed in Couperus's highly descriptive prose.I struggle to describe prose in any other way really and still don't know what "translucent" or "limpid" prose is.
Mostly in Rome, with some time in Florence and Nice in about 1900 and in the company of the Hague-born, recently divorced 23 year old Cornelie de Retz van Loo.
When in Rome and all that Cornelie falls in love with the Dutch painter and aesthete Duco van der Staal and much convention is flouted in the process.Anguish looms when Cornelie, forced by poverty to become a lady's companion, finds herself face to face with her ex-husband at a party.With a name like Baron Rudolph Brox there is little doubt he's going to be a red-nosed brutish sort of chap.
Inevitable is a book that you almost expect to have been written by a woman because for 1900 it engages so sympathetically with Cornelie's plight; her life, her emotions and dilemma, plus the disparity of women's rights.It bears favourable comparison to Kate Chopin's The Awakening published at about the same time and both were considered scandalous, Kate Chopin's perhaps more so because a woman had dared to write it. A full review here suggests it's "an appealing enough read - though it is very much a book of its time", that was the whole point of reading it for me.
All this woven into a book which to be honest is quite mesmerizing.I couldn't and didn't want to put it down until I'd finished it.Complete emotional engagement and deeply drawn characters coupled with a powerful sense of place;plenty of walks among the ruins, shimmering azure seas and pearly haze.
The perfect antidote to a dull, cold Devon afternoon even if it was a quiet one.