Emma Tennant Yolanta May - Essay

Yolanta May

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

With The Last of the Country House Murders we leave Life behind and begin to play the Tennant games. There is a strong Napoleonic streak in Miss Tennant, which first declared itself at the time of the crack and is now rampant once again: large armies sprout and march on; orders are expected and orders are issued; revolutions have taken place and others will follow. Whole galaxies have been swept off the skies with a few well-aimed sentences and now the Earth stands despondent and unaccompanied, but for the sun and the moon (a last-minute reprieve?), in the great chasm.

It is all, we look about apprehensively, a song of the Very Near Future. Persons like us, who only the other day were enjoying the twenties and the forties in the Orient Express, ornamental behind our famous Dorothy Lamour smiles, and resplendent underneath our Veronica Lake hair-styles, now shift our strangely diminished forms from one foot to the next, as we all jostle against others, similarly afflicted, on the great Salisbury plain. All of us, that is, except one Jules Tanner, a decadent whose head—red chignon piled high, Spanish comb—will roll shortly on the Aubusson carpet for the benefit of the dollar-bearing multitudes.

Miss Tennant has considerable, elegantly turned-out weapons at her disposal, only she will squander them on those armies. The visions of Borodino spring to the mind's eye. Also, the satirical possibilities of that central London group of equals have lost, we would have thought, their bloom some time ago. May they rest in peace! (p. 67)

Yolanta May, in The New Review (© TNR Publications, Ltd., London), March, 1975.