Sunday, 4 August 2019

What it meant to be a girl

The Seraphim Room The Seraphim Room by Edith Olivier is a story driven by the character of Mr Chilvester, twice widowed, and living with his two daughters: the invalid Lilian, and the teenage Emily. The lease on their home passes through the male line, and Mr Chilvester, knowing that "the name of the family would die with him," transfers all his passion into his house.

The story is set shortly after 1928 and the passing of the "Flappers' Vote." It relates what happens when the intransigence of Mr Chilvester comes up against Emily's romantic aspirations and the youthful exuberance of the young architect, Christopher Honeythorne. Chilvester is an old-fashioned Victorian patriarch, whereas Honeythorne shows all the spirit and modernism of the Roaring Twenties. Initially Chilvester appears quite comical, but when his authority is threatened the darkness of his character is revealed.

Edith Olivier's writing style is rather old-fashioned and reflects the class and period of the subject matter. The characters' actions may seem far-fetched, but there are still plenty of parents alive today whose religion or upbringing have taught them, like Chilvester, to think that "Lillian, being only a girl, meant nothing."

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