Pastors and Masters – Ivy Compton Burnett (1925)

I came to this 1925 book because of John Waters’ description of Compton-Burnett’s writing in his 2010 book, “Role Models.” He said to read any of her books and that they are a hard read, but witty and worth the effort. I went to Internet Archive and read her first. Waters and reviewers on Goodreads warn us that: 1) Her novels are almost completely written in dialogue as if they were plays with no stage directions; 2) She introduces a confounding number of characters, with little explanation, sometimes a roomful al at once, and sorting them out requires going back a chapter or two more often than I’d like to admit; 3) This is more a slice of time in the life of a small boys’ school with a few little plot lines to follow, than a linear story with a recognizable plot. Again, this means going back to earlier chapters to figure out what’s going on. I suspect even people with better short-term memory than I have would need to do this. It’s the nature of her style that requires it. Ivy Compton-Burnett falls on my positive side. If you do the work, and if you’ve enjoyed period drawing room literature focused on the late 19th and early 20th century, you’ll find her amusing as can be. I’m an old fan of P.G. Wodehouse and Oscar Wilde. Compton-Burnet is clever, wicked at times, and very observant of character. I will go back to Internet Archive and read other works of hers but in between fiction that flows effortlessly. As a welcome change of pace from time to time.

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