~ Vera ~

by ELIZABETH VON ARNIM

Elizabeth von Arnim’s Vera is a forgotten classic which is thought to have influenced Daphne du Maurier’sRebecca. Praised by Rebecca West for its “rare success in the macabre”, it combines elements of black comedy, suspense and psychological drama in its depiction of the relationship between Lucy Entwhistle and the much older Everard Wemyss. Both of them have recently been bereaved; Lucy has lost her beloved father, and Wemyss’s wife Vera has died in suspicious circumstances. Wemyss takes Lucy home to The Willows as his new wife, where despite his best efforts to erase the past, the memory and presence of Vera prove inescapable.

Vera was a novel that was drawn from von Arnim’s own bitter experience of marriage, and is described by the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography as “a ferocious and at times macabre indictment” of her husband Earl Russell.

  • Based on the text published in 1921, this is the first digital edition of Vera
  • Edited and corrected text
  • Accompanied by a brief Note on the Text, embedded explanatory notes and Links to Further Reading

EXTRACT

“To Wemyss in his new happiness it seemed that Vera had belonged to another life altogether, an elderly, stale life from which, being healthy-minded, he had managed to unstick himself and to emerge born again all new and fresh and fitted for the present. She was forty when she died. She had started life five years younger than he was, but had quickly caught him up and passed him, and had ended, he felt, by being considerably his senior. And here was Lucy, only twenty-two anyhow, and looking like twelve. The contrast never ceased to delight him, to fill him with pride. And how pretty she was, now that she had left off crying. He adored her bobbed hair that gave her the appearance of a child or a very young boy, and he adored the little delicate lines of her nose and nostrils, and her rather big, kind mouth that so easily smiled, and her sweet eyes, the colour of Love-in-a-Mist. Not that he set any store by prettiness, he told himself; all he asked in a woman was devotion. But her being pretty would make it only the more exciting when the moment came to show her to his friends, to show his little girl to those friends who had dared slink away from him after Vera’s death, and say, ‘Look here – look at this perfect little thing – she believes in me all right!’”

REVIEWS

“A black and caustic comedy, it unforgettably anatomises and subverts the clichés of married love. At its centre stands the possessive, infantile and murderous Everard Wemyss, controlling his young wife Lucy. Laugh-aloud funny, Vera keeps its reader aghast and fearfully enthralled.” – Stevie DaviesIndependent 

“The author has produced a remarkable novel because she has had the courage to override a tiresome literary convention. She has insisted that there is no real reason why a book should not be just as tragic as it is comic.” – Rebecca West 

“Vera [is] Elizabeth von Arnim’s masterpiece.” – Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

“Von Arnim was keenly aware of the powerlessness of an intelligent woman in a male-dominated world.” – Kate Saunders 

THE AUTHOR

Elizabeth von Arnim (1866–1941) was born in Sydney, Australia, but lived in England from an early age. She wrote, according to Hugh Walpole, “some of the wittiest novels in the English language”. Her first book, Elizabeth and Her German Garden (1898) was a huge success, and was followed by several others, including The Enchanted April (1922) and Mr Skeffington (1940), both of which have been adapted as films.

Purchase Vera here.

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