‘Joan! I don’t know you awfully well , and of course you’re only a kid as yet, but Elizabeth says you’re clever— and don’t you let yourself be bottled.’
‘Bottled?’ she queried.
‘Don’t you get all cramped up and fuggy, like one does when one sits over a fire all day. I know what I mean, it sounds all rot, only it isn’t rot. You look out! I have a presentiment that they mean to bottle you.’
I figured I would The Unlit Lamp before attempting Radclyffe Hall’s more famous (or infamous) work The Well of Loneliness – simply because I wanted to see where her writing was coming without having any expectations.
Radclyffe Hall doesn’t quite manage to impress with her writing – there is a lot of telling rather than showing going on and a lot of repetition – but, to my surprise, I really liked The Unlit Lamp for being such an anti-hero of a book.
It is as depressing as any Hardy novel I have read, and even when read as a kind of cautionary tale about wasted lives, selfishness, responsibility, and infuriating parental manipulation, the story kept its pace until the very last.
Now I am still not sure who I want to slap more – Elizabeth or her mother.