Presently she sank into an armchair before the fire, and tried to visualize the effects of her own action. She was principally conscious of a certain amazement, that a step which seemed likely to have such far-reaching consequences should have been so largely the result of sudden impulse. She had not thought the night before of breaking off her engagement. It had all happened very quickly in a few minutes, when the sense of tension which had hung round her intercourse with Noel had suddenly seemed to reach an unbearable pitch, so that something had snapped. Was this how Important Things happened to one through life?
Consequences is one of the little-known gems that I discovered through the Persephone Books catalogue. It was published in 1919 and seems to mirror some of the author’s own experiences as the book’s main character “brought up according to strict late Victorian precepts, but failing to ensnare a husband, entered a convent in Belgium”.
It would be inappropriate to speculate about how much of Delafield was reflected in the main character of Consequences, Alex(andra) Clare, but the descriptions of the confinement and limitations instilled in Alex by her family and social environment read like a very personal account. It is the personal voice that kept me glued to pages of this book because, lets face it, the plot was not riveting: young girl grows up surrounded by high-Victorian values, fails at everything expected of her, joins a convent, and finally sets out to live a life of her own only to discover she is not equipped for it.
None of the characters were likeable, and even Alex was of the sort that I felt sorry for but at the same time wanted to tell to get a grip – only to realise that she was trying her best but had not been raised to ever think for herself or do anything for herself, so how could she have any chance to make do or behave or think like an independent woman?
It was such a depressing story, and yet, it was strangely gripping.
If this has been based – even in part – on Delafield’s own life and circumstances I am curious to find out more about her and how she created the life for herself that Alex so despaired over.