Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Gone to Earth

At Bob's recommendation for my Shropshire travels later this year, I picked up Gone to Earth
by Mary Webb and have started it.

It's an interesting book--this is definitely the kind of book that Stella Gibbons was mocking with her hilarious Cold Comfort Farm. Not only is the setting Rural and the tone Romantic, but the heroine, Hazel, is somewhat a stock character in that she is a complete Innocent, beautiful and wild. She is Marianne Dashwood's ideal in that she speaks what she feels and she feels from the heart. I'm only about a third of the way through, and Hazel has already eluded a fall from grace (i.e., the kind that Tess Durbyfield and Ruth Hilton, from Gaskell's Ruth, couldn't escape) but I fear that this will turn into a tragedy along the lines of a Hardy story rather than a triumph, like that I loved in Precious Bane also by Mary Webb.

Apart from the basic plot, the novel is also interesting in style and tone. While easy to read and vastly appealing to me, Webb occasionally spills over into purple prose.

The opening itself is enough to make me smile indulgently, and yet I read on...

Small feckless clouds were hurried across the vast untroubled sky-shepherdless futile imponderable-and were torn to fragments on the fangs of the mountains so ending their ephemeral adventures with nothing of their fugitive existence left but a few tears.

And, I can't help but feel that Webb could have edited out some of her similes. At some point, a thing doesn't need to be described as being like something else in order for the reader to get a mental picture of it.

Now for the big news...in googling for information on whether the place names in the book are real, I stumbled across stills for the movie version called The Wild Heart and starring Jennifer Jones. I have got to see whether this is on NetFlix!

This makes me happy. Very happy.


  1. the melodrama & gerneral crapness is what I love about it! One can't be a po faced academic all the time... esp when one works in a dvd / cd shop. We rent Gone to earth but the cover isn't as good as your poster. The sophisticayed writers these days miss the point about human emotion.. for the real stories one has to go to Webb or even Catherine Cookson.. her stories are Sophoclean in their views of family /fate/ destiny and so on...

  2. I've never read anything by Cookson. I have to admit that I'm enjoying Gone to Earth, though the eyes roll a good deal, but then that's part of the enjoyment.

  3. I have several of Mary Webb's books, because, well because that is my Mom's name. But aside from that, she was recommended by Linden. I have yet to read them, but I am looking forward to it, especially since you recommend them also.

    Linda Fern

  4. Linda - I would definitely read Precious Bane over Gone to Earth. Then, you can spend all your free time searching for a dvd of the wonderful Masterpiece Theatre adaptation of it--I've stumbled on a broadcast of it twice and loved watching it both times, though I've never seen it from the beginning. It doesn't seem to be readily available.