Saturday 19 October 2019

The Corner That Held Them

Finished October 6
The Corner that Held Them by Sylvia Townsend Warner

This fascinating book tells of the couple Brian and Alianor de Retteville and their unhappy relationship, and of the resulting founding, in the later part of the twelfth century, of a priory of the Benedictine order at one of their manors, Oby. Oby had been part of Alianor's dowry and was near an area of marsh and woodland. The book then jumps ahead and tells of the events at the priory from 1349 to 1382.
The story about Oby is a story of people living together in a close community, with all the personality clashes, small rivalries, petty annoyances, strategic alliances, and other such human foibles. We see the personalities of the various nuns and how the priory functions under different prioresses. Outside events having an impact during this time include the Black Death and the Peasant's Revolt. Many of the nuns have an influence due to their relations outside the priory, such as one with a Bishop cousin,
There are stories that are never tidied up, of people that had contact with the priory, items stolen from it, or even a nun gone astray. There are stories that stand out, for instance of the assigned auditor of the priory discovering polyphonic music on a trip to try to recover overdue rents.
There is no main character, and no plot to speak of, and no real end to the book, rather just an end to the writing of it. I enjoyed this book a lot and found the lives it told quite interesting.

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