Innocence by Penelope Fitzgerald - 1986 - 324 Pages
“Writers, over the long run, are judged by the truths they detect about the human condition, and the artistry with which they represent those truths.
Penelope Fitzgerald’s Innocence will last as long as mature and careful novel-readers continue to exist.” Julian Barnes
With a preface by Hermionne Lee and an Introduction by Julian Barnes
Innocence is sixth of the nine novels wriiten by Penelope Fitzgerald. It is my fifth of her works. She also wrote three biographies. Innocence is set in Florence about 1952, just recovering from Mussolini.
The opening chapter is a minature masterpiece of surrealism. It goes back to the 14 century ancestors of a lead character. A daughter is born, a midget. Her Family shields her from her status by hiring midget helpers,making her think it is midgets who are normal. From here we jump to Florence in 1950s.
Innocence is a comedy of manners centering on the marriage of a doctor focusing on neurlogical problems, to a significantly younger woman in Love with him. The doctor has only a little money so her parents her not crazy for the match.
Fitzgerald wonderfully develops the characters, Major and Minor. Much of The novel focuses on conformity to tradition. A thirty something single doctor is expected to have a mistress and his is a seamstress, also a tradition. The scene with her is just perfect. She has no innocence about her place and quickly disrobes and offers him sex when he visits. She shocked says “you do not want it?”
He tells her he is getting married soon and Will not be able to see her anymore. She shrugs. Something hilarious that will enrage her husband when post marriage he discovers it will occur:
“In the following year, after she had left school for good, Chiara asked her father for ten thousand lira and went to a small dressmaker, recommended (as a relation by marriage) by the barber in the courtyard. Even here she met with some opposition.”
There is a lot on the Domestic lives of everyone involved. They do eventually get married. There is a count, an English couple who love to host visitors, Land sales, hospital politics and much more.
PENELOPE FITZGERALD (1916–2000) was one of the most elegant and distinctive voices in British fiction. She won the National Book Critics Circle Award in fiction for The Blue Flower, the Booker Prize for Offshore, and three of her novels—The Bookshop, The Gate of Angels, and The Beginning of Spring—were short-listed for the Booker Prize. - from The publisher.
I hope to do a full read of her works.