The Corner That Held Them by Sylvia Townsend Warner / ISBN 9781681373874 / paperback from NYRB Classics
I love this book.
A unique novel about life in a 14th-century convent by one of England's most original authors.
Sylvia Townsend Warner’s The Corner That Held Them is a historical novel like no other, one that immerses the reader in the dailiness of history, rather than history as the given sequence of events that, in time, it comes to seem. Time ebbs and flows and characters come and go in this novel, set in the era of the Black Death, about a Benedictine convent of no great note. The nuns do their chores, and seek to maintain and improve the fabric of their house and chapel, and struggle with each other and with themselves. The book that emerges is a picture of a world run by women but also a story—stirring, disturbing, witty, utterly entrancing—of a community. What is the life of a community and how does it support, or constrain, a real humanity? How do we live through it and it through us? These are among the deep questions that lie behind this rare triumph of the novelist’s art.
“[A]n exhilarating event, a radical work of fiction from seventy years ago which resonates sharply today.” —Tobias Carroll, BOMB
"Warner’s style is delicate and arch . . . Though she teeters on the edge of satire, she lands instead . . . on poignancy." —Josephine Livingstone, The New York Times Book Review
Sylvia Townsend Warner (1893–1978) was a poet, short-story writer, and novelist, as well as an authority on early English music and a member of the Communist Party. Her first novel, Lolly Willowes (available from NYRB Classics), appeared in 1926 and was the first ever Book-of-the-Month Club selection. Over the course of her long career, Warner published six more novels, seven books of poetry, a translation of Proust, fourteen volumes of short stories, and a biography of T.H. White. NYRB also publishes her novels Mr. Fortune, Summer Will Show and The Corner That Held Them.