The Taverner Novels

Mary Butts, Author McPherson $15 (374p) ISBN 978-0-929701-17-2
First published in 1928 and 1932, these novels follow an ensemble of close friends in the beautiful Cornish countryside. The earlier Armed with Madness is the more mystical story: a small jade cup, possibly the Sanc-Grail, is involved in events that culminate in Scylla Taverner being tied to a wax statue of her lover and wounded with arrows by a temporarily insane friend. Death of Felicity Taverner, set at a later date and featuring most of the same characters, is more traditional in structure and plot. Felicity, a relative of Scylla's and saintly friend of all in their group, is dead. Her husband, the evil Jew Nick Kralin (an ugly stereotype in an otherwise intelligent novel), had a hand in her death. Now he plans to besmirch their sacred woods with a resort and publish a scandalizing version of Felicity's diaries. Scylla and her friends must stop him. This could be the outline of a melodrama, but Butts's work is richer and more complex, finally suggesting that evil cannot be fought with good but instead with more evil, or at least with amorality. Butts (1890-1937), a friend of numerous writers on the Paris scene including Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway, now is due her share of recognition. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1992
Release date: 01/01/1992
Paperback - 384 pages - 978-0-929701-18-9
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