The inevitable doesn’t happen in Sparkenbroke

Charles Morgan’s Sparkenbroke is about art and the artist’s relationship to the world.

The plot is only of marginal interest.

Sparkenbroke by Charles Morgan

MacMillan, 1936. 553 p. 1936 bestseller #3. My grade: B.

The novel is set in an English country town at the edge of the Sparkenbroke estate. Lord Sparkenbroke, a renowned poet and novelist, flits back from Italy occasionally, spending most of his time writing in a cottage on the estate.

Sparkenbroke’s wealthy wife runs the estate which she is restoring to profitability for their children to inherit.

Mary Leward comes to Chelmouth to visit her former teacher, Helen Hardy.

When Mary’s father practically disowns her for breaking her engagement to a wealthy man, Helen’s brother, George Hardy, steps in with a proposal of marriage.

Mary meets Lord Sparkenbroke, whom she knows through his poetry.

Mary thinks she can be Sparkenbroke’s muse and George’s wife, too.

Morgan explores Sparkenbroke’s vision of death as the ultimate transcendent experience. All most readers will see, however, is a picture of a working writer.

The seemingly inevitable affair is never consummated.

All the characters love, or at least are fond of, the others.

And Sparkenbroke’s one true love his is writing.

In the end, the solid, reliable George appears as the book’s hero.

© 2016 Linda Gorton Aragoni

The Fountain Not Your Standard POW Novel

Holland view with cows in foreground, castle in background

In January 1915, a small group of English naval officers are imprisoned in a Dutch castle. Lewis Alison is greedy for the isolation. He wants to write a book about the contemplative life.

Living on a nearby estate is Julie Narwitz, daughter of a client of Alison’s London publishing firm, whom he remembers as a lovely child. She married a German, who sent her to her mother, who is the second wife of Baron Van Leyden.

The Dutch let the officers out on parole for the duration. The Baron invites Alison to use the castle library, which has a seldom-used connection to Julie’s bedroom.

When Narwitz is invalided out of Germany, their mutual interest in contemplation leads Alison and Narwitz to a deep friendship. When Narwitz finally figures out that Alison and Julie had been having an affair, the knowledge destroys his will to live.

After Narwitz’s death, the two must decide whether their love can survive marriage.

Charles Morgan has all the ingredients for a first-rate novel, but The Fountain reads like a screenplay. Readers have to mentally cast it and stage it. In the end, they come away wondering if they caught the author’s intention or wrote their own script.

The Fountain
Charles Morgan
Alfred A. Knopf, 1932
448 pages
1932 bestseller #2
My grade: B-

Photo credit: “Holland View” uploaded by wick01

© 2012 Linda Gorton Aragoni