Molly Keane Margaret Wallace - Essay

Margaret Wallace

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Miss M. J. Farrell, who has entertained us in the past with stories of fox hunting and horse racing in Ireland, has chosen for her latest novel a quite different background and a set of characters hitherto foreign to her pen. Excellent and full flavored as her hunting tales are, one does not regret the change. It is probable that "Devoted Ladies" is Miss Farrell's best novel to date. Certainly she finds in it an opportunity for the exercise of a stinging wit and an extraordinarily acute and vital faculty of observation. This, together with the graceful and luminous prose style which readers of her previous novels will remember, forms an irresistible combination.

The novel opens in London, at a party given by Sylvester Browne for a group of his pseudo-literary and artistic friends and acquaintances. Sylvester, a successful playwright and novelist, takes a somewhat ghoulish delight in prying into the private lives and motives of other people, and studiously surrounds himself with persons most likely to afford him amusement of this kind. Although the story, and most of its incidents, are seen through his eyes, Sylvester himself is by no means immune to the shafts of the author's wit. Foppish and self-indulgent, alternately kindly and malicious, victimized by an unflinchingly acute and realistic turn of mind, Sylvester is one of the most amusing of this whole gallery of amusing and pungently delineated characters….

["Devoted Ladies" is] an extremely neat and witty tale—a tale which, for its sparkle and vitality, really deserves that abused adjective, brilliant.

Margaret Wallace, "'Devoted Ladies' and Other Recent Works of Fiction: 'Devoted Ladies'," in The New York Times Book Review, June 10, 1934, p. 7.