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Mary Lavelle af Obrien
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Mary Lavelle (original 1936; udgave 1998)

af Obrien

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingOmtaler
1894113,639 (3.83)68
Mary Lavelle, a beautiful young Irish woman, travels to Spain to see some of the world before marrying her steadfast fiance John. But despite the enchanting surroundings and her three charming charges, life as governess to the wealthy Areavaga family is lonely and she is homesick. Then comes the arrival of the family's handsome, passionate - and married - son Juanito and Mary's loyalties and beliefs are challenged. Falling in love with Juanito and with Spain, Mary finds herself at the heart of a family and a nation divided.… (mere)
Medlem:thelongwindedlady
Titel:Mary Lavelle
Forfattere:Obrien
Info:Random House, Inc. (1998), Edition: New Ed, Paperback, 368 pages
Samlinger:Dit bibliotek
Vurdering:****
Nøgleord:Ingen

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Mary Lavelle - Roman fra Spanien af Kate O'Brien (1936)

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Kate O’Brien is a perfect example of why I continue to read an author’s books, even if I didn’t like the first book I read by them. I didn’t like The Ante-Room, Kate O’Brien’s novel about a woman in 1880s Ireland who is in love with her sister’s husband; but I had much more success with Mary Lavelle, a novel that is far more romantic in tone.

The Ante-Room and Mary Lavelle share a common theme: forbidden love. In this book, a young Irish woman leaves her fiancée at home and goes to Spain, where she becomes an English teacher to the three daughters of a wealthy family. Things become a lot more complicated when Mary meets Juanito, the girls’ older brother. The action of the novel takes place in various parts of Spain; the country itself even becomes a character. Kate O’Brien is a master of describing, and I loved the way that she described the places that Mary visits. There’s a very dreamy, last feel to this book, almost as if you can feel the heat of the Spanish summer that O’Brien describes.

As I’ve said before, this book is very romantic in tone, and that may have contributed to why I enjoyed this book so much. There’s not quite the same amount of melodrama that The Ante-Room has, not so much self-sacrifice on the part of the main character. In that way, Mary Lavelle is a much softer character, much more sympathetic and human. You almost feel sorry for the situation she fiends herself in because it’s not something that she can totally control. ( )
  Kasthu | Dec 5, 2010 |
Mary Lavelle is a young, naive Irish woman who leaves her home and her fiancé John to work as a governess in Spain. At 22, she felt a strong need for independence:
To go to Spain. To be alone for a little space, a tiny hiatus between her life's two accepted phases. To cease being a daughter without immediately becoming a wife. To be a free lance, to belong to no one place or family or person -- to achieve that silly longing of childhood, only for one year, before she flung it with all other childish things upon the scrapheap. (p. 34)

And so she arrives in the Pyrenees, and the Areavaga family home, to serve as a "Miss" (as they are called by the locals). Mary's primary responsibility is teaching English to the three daughters. This must have been a common arrangement in the 1920s, because Mary soon encounters a group of women in a local pub, all serving other families. Some have made a career of it, either because they enjoy the independence or because their marriage prospects back home are slim and they cannot afford to be a burden on their family. Mary both enjoys and is bewildered by these women: their lifestyle, their way of conversing with one another, and their relative isolation, since most have never bothered to learn Spanish.

I expected Mary to be the typical "naive girl abroad," and she does indeed spend a fair amount of time taking in the sights and declaring her love for Spain. Early on, she attends a bullfight with another Miss, despite her strong views against the sport. She is, not surprisingly, horrified but also captivated by the tradition. The locals are equally captivated by Mary, who apparently is the most beautiful woman anyone in the region has ever seen.

Enter Juanito: oldest child and only son of Don Pablo Areavaga. A few years older than Mary, he is married with a young child. But after exchanging a long glance with Mary on the stairway, the two completely fall for each other. While Mary knows Juanito is off limits, she begins to question her feelings for John. Juanito finds excuses to visit his parents in order to see Mary.

Well, you know where this is going. If this story were set in modern times, the reader would be treated to a sordid affair followed by divorce, and the couple would live happily ever after. But divorce was forbidden by the Catholic church, so the love between Mary and Juanito was not to be. Or so I thought. Mary and Juanito both spend too much time mooning about but then suddenly, Mary turns out to be the stronger of the two. She takes the bull by the horns, so to speak, and makes life-changing decisions regarding Juanito.

Mary's strength and decisiveness saved this book for me. I had a difficult time understanding the so-called "love" between Mary and Juanito. The two could barely communicate with one another, appeared to have no shared interests, and yet felt they were meant to share a life together. Both Mary and Juanito were a little too one-dimensional for me; O'Brien did a better job developing the ancillary characters, like Don Pablo and other governesses, than she did her protagonists. This was an average read, and not O'Brien's best work. ( )
5 stem lauralkeet | Jul 28, 2010 |
Well, I haven't had such a quixotic reaction to a book in a long time. The problem for me was the main character, Mary Lavelle herself. The story is an innocence to experience tale, with the protagonist throwing off the naivety of her youthful life in Ireland as she crosses into the world of experience in Spain. Mary has suddenly decided to leave her family home and the predictable comfort of a future with her fiance, John, precisely to get some more experience with life. So she takes on the position as a teacher of English to the children in a wealthy Spanish family becoming "the Miss" for the family.

There were beautiful passages where the writing was wonderful. O'Brien's descriptions of Spain, the Spanish people, the bullfight, the sad clique of the other Anglo/Irish Misses were all exceptionally well done. But there was something about the drawing of the character of Mary herself which left me unsatisfied and at times somewhat dubious about her. I didn't believe in her, as though she always remained two dimensional for me. Her Catholicism was mentioned several times and yet her actions belied her purported faith. Was her faith under crisis as well, as she moved into the world of experience? This was never explored openly.

That said, it was a good book and an interesting read. I'm not dismissing it out of hand. It just didn't sit comfortably for some reason and I'm still puzzling out why. ( )
1 stem tiffin | Oct 26, 2008 |
Ten years ago, Hollywood produced a film adaptation of Kate O'Brien's Mary Lavelle with the new title Talk of Angels. The film starred British actress Polly Walker in the title role, and in smaller roles featured Frances McDormand and an unknown actress named Penelope Cruz. As is the way with media marketing, the book was simultaneously reissued under the title Talk of Angels. The new title comes from a scene early in the novel. Mary Lavelle, a beautiful and innocent Irish Catholic girl, has come to Spain to work as a governess for the three daughters of a wealthy Spaniard. At the Café Alemán, Mary meets the other members of a large group of Irish expatriate governesses. Missing from the group is Conlon (they all call each other by their last names), the Frances McDormand character. She is described to Mary, who says, "She sounds queer." To which one of the other governesses replies, "Talk of angels." That is to say, "Out of the mouths of babes." Because Conlon is "queer." She develops an awkward crush on Mary—and this, as well as a theme of adultery and a graphic (for 1936) scene of extramarital sex, caused the novel to be censored by the Irish authorities.

The lesbian subplot is such a small part of the book, but Hollywood elevated it to the titillating titular theme in the film. What provoked censorship in the Ireland of 1936 became the main attraction for the Hollywood of 1998. A better new title, if one were needed, might have been "Moment of Truth," from la hora de verdad, the moment of the kill in a bullfight. The bullfight is a controlling metaphor in the novel: it fascinates Mary Lavelle (and Kate O'Brien) because of its combination of brutality and raw artistic beauty. The novel is about the dangerous dance of beauty and pain, played out against the alluring backdrop of "the good Basque country" in a Spain drifting toward Fascism and civil war. It's about sex and death. It's no coincidence that "the moment of truth" for both the bull and the virgin involves a bloody thrust. Also no coincidence that El Greco's painting The Burial of Count Orgaz, aptly named, hovers emblematically over the novel.

Standing symbolically in the wings, too, is O'Brien's favorite saint, the Spanish Teresa of Ávila, for whom there was a thin line between spiritual and physical ecstasy, who sometimes saw angels in the flesh—who, like a bull in the ring, felt the pain of a lance piercing her heart. In the novel, Mary resists making a pilgrimage to Ávila. She can't make the leap from physical to spiritual ecstasy.

Kate O'Brien is a marvelous writer, but in my opinion she's better at deep explorations of character than she is at writing the dialogue of passionate lovemaking. There's a kind of cinematic melodrama in some of the lovers' talk: "What am I to do?" "Ah, love!" "This isn't good-bye..." O'Brien is at her best, I think, in her delineation of the character of Don Pablo, the father of the girls for whom Mary serves as governess. He is idealistic, faithful, disappointed, at once stirred and defeated by the beauty of life. A marvelous character, and very true.

There is a crucial scene early in the novel—more crucial than the "talk of angels" scene—in which Mary first meets Juanito, her employer's son. They are in the entry hall of the house; as Mary climbs the stairs to her room, she looks back and sees Juanito looking up at her. "The evening sun," O'Brien writes, "lighted each very sweetly for the other, as with a fatal halo." The scene of a woman on the stairs echoes the famous scene in James Joyce's "The Dead," in which Gabriel glances up and sees his wife Gretta on the stairs, listening to distant music: "There was grace and mystery in her attitude as if she were a symbol of something." Gretta is looking back, in memory, to a tragic lost love. Mary is seen in a moment of innocence, unaware of the love and pain that lie ahead of her. The staircase is itself a potent symbol. It can be a symbol of a spiritual ascent or descent: for Teresa of Ávila, an ascent to mystical union with God; for her colleague John of the Cross, a descent into the dark night of the soul. For Kate O'Brien, echoing Joyce, it is both: that fatally haloed moment on the stairs is a moment of truth, a moment of turning toward the pain and pleasure of life, the beginning of a loss of innocence and the gaining of knowledge. ( )
3 stem rbhardy3rd | May 29, 2008 |
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Forfatter navnRolleHvilken slags forfatterVærk?Status
Kate O'Brienprimær forfatteralle udgaverberegnet
Gordon, MaryIntroduktionmedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
Hargreaves, TamsinIntroduktionmedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet

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Amor, yo nunca pensse
aunque poderoso eras,
Que podrias tener maneras
Para trastornar la fe,
Fastagora que lo se.
-Cancion.-
Juan II.
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Dearest Father, I hope that by now you have had my telegram and are not worrying about me any more.
The beauty and originality of this novel derive from its Spanish setting as much as from Kate O'Brien's characteristic take on forbidden love versus Catholic morality. (Introduction)
The trunk of a 'Miss,' going over the Pyrenees, is no great matter. (Prologue)
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Mary Lavelle was also published with a movie-tie-in cover under the title Talk of Angels.
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Mary Lavelle, a beautiful young Irish woman, travels to Spain to see some of the world before marrying her steadfast fiance John. But despite the enchanting surroundings and her three charming charges, life as governess to the wealthy Areavaga family is lonely and she is homesick. Then comes the arrival of the family's handsome, passionate - and married - son Juanito and Mary's loyalties and beliefs are challenged. Falling in love with Juanito and with Spain, Mary finds herself at the heart of a family and a nation divided.

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