Molly Keane The Times Literary Supplement - Essay

The Times Literary Supplement

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The modern novel of sex and cocktails grafted on to the old-fashioned Irish tale of foxhunting and country-house life is a curious combination. That, however, is a not unfair description of [Taking Chances]…. Miss Farrell has, it appears, determined to go a little deeper and to attack more important problems than in her previous light hearted books. In this there is a vein of tragedy all through, and the end is tragedy unadulterated. On the whole she has been successful. Her personages, with one exception, are perhaps only types, but they are true types. Her machinery is excellent, and the sporting and humorous accessories as good as before. Yet there is something unpleasant, not in her subject, but in her handling of it—a treatment of the sensual which becomes sickly after a while. And how tiresome the girls' oaths and slang, quite genuine though they be, their "Come on, chaps!" their "crashings" and "terriblys," are when administered in large doses!

The book has five characters who count: the three Sorriers of Sorristown, the brothers Roguey and Gerald and their sister Maeve; their neighbour Rowland Fountain of Castle Fountain, who at the beginning of the story is about to marry Maeve; and the English girl Mary Fuller, who arrives as Maeve's bridesmaid, and stays to become Rowland's mistress (first) and Roguey's wife. As we have hinted, the first four are conventional enough…. It is the Saxon visitor Mary, who spoils every one's life, including her own, that is her creator's best achievement. One may call her grande amoureuse or born harlot according to one's views and standard of politeness; in either case one cannot deny that she is not only disturbing and dangerously attractive but quite convincing. Miss Farrell might go farther if she would use a blue pencil, not in the interests of morality, but in those of good taste.

A review of "Taking Chances," in The Times Literary Supplement, No. 1434, July 25, 1929, p. 590.