Vera - Elizabeth von Arnim

‘My little love isn’t going to do anything that spoils her Everard’s plans after all the trouble he has taken?’ he said, seeing that with her mouth slightly open she gazed at him in an obvious astonishment and didn’t say a word.

Vera, written in 1921 and partly informed by von Arnim’s marriage to Earl Russell (the older brother to Bertrand), is as fascinating as it is frightening.

Vera tells the story of young Lucy who marries the somewhat older Everard Wemyss and finds herself caught. The tragedy of it is, she doesn’t realise it.

Vera is often described as the prototype for Du Maurier’s Rebecca (1938). In some ways this is quite true:

Vera, like Rebecca, lends her name to the book’s title. Vera, like Rebecca, is the late wife of the husband. Vera, like Rebecca, haunts the young new wife.

However, on levels of dysfunction, Vera surpasses Rebecca by far.

Marriage, Lucy found, was different from what she had supposed; Everard was different; everything was different. For one thing she was always sleepy. For another she was never alone. She hadn’t realised how completely she would never be alone, or, if alone, not sure for one minute to the other of going on being alone. Always in her life there had been intervals during which she recuperated in solitude from any strain; now there were none. Always there had been places she could go to and rest in quietly, safe from interruption; now there were none.

I pretty quickly in the book wanted to shake Lucy and make her see what she was getting into, but I am not sure she would have listened.

As the story progressed, dysfunction turned into what can only be described as a nightmare, and I truly hoped that Lucy, much like von Arnim, would find a means to escape from psycho-Everard’s clutches. Or that she’d push him off a cliff. Or the top floor window.

Well, that was at the very beginning. She soon learned that a doubt in her mind was better kept there. If she brought it out to air it and dispel it by talking it over with him, all that happened was that he was hurt, and when he was hurt she instantly became perfectly miserable. Seeing, then, that this happened about small things, how impossible it was to talk with him of big things; of, especially, her immense doubt in regard to The Willows.


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