The Taverner Novels: Armed with Madness and Death of Felicity Taverner (Recovered Classic Series)

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9780929701189: The Taverner Novels: Armed with Madness and Death of Felicity Taverner (Recovered Classic Series)
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These two novels, Armed with Madness and Death of Felicity Taverner, out of print since originally published in 1928 and 1932, form what is almost certainly her masterpiece, a mythic yet contemporary tale of struggle against spiritual alienation.

On the remote southwestern coast along the English Channel, a group of young bohemians have gathered, in retreat from the psychological cataclysm of World War and in search of a moral value on which to base their lives. Armed with Madness begins by invoking an ancient enchantment, a numinous vision of coincident reality, where love can also lead to insanity. Scylla Taverner, her brother Felix, her soon-to-be lover Picus, and their closely knit circle of English, Russian and American friends, retrieve an ancient chalice, which may be the Sanc-Grail. Together they enter upon a psychological and sexual exploration fraught with exhilarating possibility and violent consequence.

Five years later, in Death of Felicity Taverner the quest is renewed, this time to discover a buried truth. Was Felicity's death accidental? A suicide? Or a murder? As the mystery unravels, Felicity's opportunistic widower unveils a plan with a vacation-home development, inciting a drama played out between conscience and evil.

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About the Author:

She drank with Hemingway at Les Deux Magots; Virgil Thompson courted her; among her best friends she counted H.D. and Bryher and corresponded at length with Charles Williams, but Virginia Woolf hated her perfume. She lived more outrageously than Jean Rhys and was considered a better writer than Katherine Mansfield. She was published in Ford Madox Ford's Transatlantic Review and Ezra Pound's Little Review; Robert McAlmon's Contact Editions issued her first novel. ... And yet, though hailed in her time for adventurous originality, because of her untimely death her greatest works have remained lost for sixty years. Fortunately, the flame of Mary Butts (1890-1937) has been kept alive over time by Kenneth Rexroth, Virgil Thomson, Robert Duncan, John Ashbery, Kenneth Irby, Gerrit Lansing, Robert Kelly and many others.

From Kirkus Reviews:

A one volume reissue of two novels by British writer Butts (d. 1937), one of which, Armed with Madness, appeared in the US in 1928, with the other, Death of Felicity Taverner, making its US debut. Though in broad outline an investigation of a possible murder, the Death of Felicity Taverner is even more an expression of a particular mood and time--the uncertain years after WW I. Sensitive, artistic, and elitist--better to have ``one dress from Chanel than `six from a shop'''--brother Felix Taverner, sister Scylla, her husband Picus, as well as Russian immigrant Boris, are spending the summer in their beloved seaside house. Here, they live the simple life and, sensitive to nature, are convinced like Scylla ``that the land was an exfoliation, not happening in our kind of time, a becoming of the perfected.'' Here they also ponder cousin Felicity's death in France. Felicity may have been pressured to commit suicide by her mother and brother's demand for conventional behavior, or murdered by her estranged husband, Kralin, a sinister Russian. And when Kralin, a man who represents all that Felicity was not, arrives and announces his intentions to turn Felicity's old home into a vacation development, the family is convinced he's culpable. There is a denouement of sorts, but Butts prefers the elliptical to the exact, and Felicity's death is more a metaphor for the times than a real crime requiring a real solution. There's some beautiful writing here, but not enough to give weight and shape to a diffuse and often irritatingly fey work, riven with period prejudices, including anti-Semitism. A minor period piece. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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