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Synopsis

Edwin Muir wrote of Ivy Compton-Burnett in the Observer: 'Her literary abilities have been abundantly acknowledged by the majority of her literary contemporaries. Her intense individuality has removed her from the possibility of rivalry. .. . She takes as her theme the tyrannies and internecine battles of English family life in leisured well-conducted country houses. To Miss Compton-Burnett the family conflict is intimate, unrelenting, very often indecisive and fought out mainly in conversation. . . . The passions which bring distress to her country houses have recently devastated continents.'

To present an image of this totally unique writer, we have to imagine a Jane Austen writing, in the present day, Greek prose tragedies (in which the wicked generally triumph) on late Victorian themes. First published in 1939, A Family of a Fortune conveys, largely through dialogue (which may be subtle, humorous, envenomed, or tragic), the effects of death and inheritance on the house of Gaveston - in particular on the relations between Edgar and his selfless younger brother, Dudley. This, apart from the embittered character of Matilda Seaton, is her kindliest novel.

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