[identity profile] jackmerlin.livejournal.com
I know this has been brilliantly covered in fanfic, but I have been searching back through old threads and can't see that it has ever been discussed in a thread here. In Peter's Room we are told as a casual aside, that Trennels was built by a Joshua Marlow, who made his pile in the slave trade.
Presumably this is historically likely. No-one got to build a house like Trennels without doing something dubious at some point; if not the slave trade, then employing children in the mines / being a slum landlord / driving small farmers off their land etc. Maybe AF was inspired by a real life stately home that she'd visited that had been built using money from the slave trade.
My question is this really: why did AF toss this fact into the story at all? Would an original child reader have queried how Trennels existed? There seems no need to mention it at all.
Peter is romanticising Malise at the point where he thinks about Joshua. Is the mention of one dodgy ancestor meant to alert the reader to the possibility that Malise might not be all he seems?
Is it a sneaky dig at the Marlow's Protestant forebears? Patrick's ancestors were busy being martyrs for their faith and suffering discrimination for being Catholics - but look what the Protestants (with their Protestant work ethic and all) did?
Is it too much of a stretch to wonder if AF had Mansfield Park on her mind, given MP and PR's themes of play-acting and love triangles, and indirectly answered the question of whether the Bertrams were slave-owners?
What do the younger Marlows think about living in a house built with slave money? Peter seems to think of it as accepted and unremarked family history. The entail means of course that they can never wash their hands of it, but do they ever have any sort of conversation about it? (And yes, this will be my prompt for the summer fic fest if we have one again!)
[identity profile] tobimkcb.livejournal.com

I've often wondered whether or what Rowan gets paid for her toil on the farm. When she first takes over, Mr Tranter is still Farm Manager and she doesn't really have a defined role. Captain Marlow is still the boss (when Karen wants Mrs Tranter to move out of the farmhouse in RAH, Rowan reminds her that it is only their father who can give the Tranters notice) so I hope he's set up some kind of salary for her, though if the impecunious Pam is reduced to selling the Last Ditch (in Peter's Room) to pay for Chocbar and just over a term later they can't afford the school fees for all 4 girls at Kingscote, I wonder what their finances are like. Maybe Rowan just gets pocket money, which is another reason her social life is so poor.
[identity profile] geebengrrl.livejournal.com
There are three things that always troubled me a bit about this book:
a) Why did Karen suddenly up and marry an older man, with kids, and chuck in her degree;
b) Why is Edwin such as bastard; and
c) the cooling of relations between Rowan and Karen

I re-read the book over the weekend, and I came up with a few theories, so thought I'd put them out there and see what the general opinion is.

(a) Why did she do it?
At the time the book was written, the '60s were beginning to make themselves felt. There are references to dolly birds for example, and things pointing to a gap widening between youth and age. I get the feeling that Karen is quite old-fashioned. She's studying Classics (and she studies - in Peter's Room she's spending her whole xmas vacation pouring over the books), her sisters refer to her as "straight", she doesn't seem to be partying her time at Oxford away. Could it be then, that Karen found she didn't want to be part of this brave new world that was opening up - she doesn't seem the type for pop music, free love, drugs etc and she doesn't seem to have any friends at Oxford. Does it make sense that she saw an academic career was not going to be what she wanted, not because she doesn't want to be an academic, but because she doesn't like the way academia is going (maybe she even has inklings of the coming tide of post-modernism). If you're 19 and a young fogey and not a particularly good "coper", is it an easy solution to your problem to marry a much older man whose interests seem to align more with yours, so that you can feel more comfortable in your skin?

(b) Why is Edwin such as bastard?
I think you can understand Edwin a little better if you think a bit deeper about the class issues involved. I'm basing this on a few things: Edwin reads the Guardian, he drives a fairly ordinary car*, Karen calls him "love"**, and they send the kids to the village school and the Colebridge grammars. This, to me, points to Edwin possibly being a lower-middle-class grammar school boy made good; but with a bit of a radical/lefty edge. So part of the reason he comes across as such a bastard is that he's wrestling with an internal conflict - he's married a woman who comes from all he despises (money and privilege); AND he's under obligation to the ruling classes because he's staying in their house, eating their food, and having his kids minded by them. Peter's behavior to him is not just a kid being cheeky to an adult, but a member of the ruling classes trying to assert their power over the proletariat. Edwin wants to assert himself in the face of the Marlows' privileged existence, but his radical identity is being swamped by sheer weight of numbers.

* Edwin drives a Hillman Minx, a fairly ordinary, mid-priced British car manufactured from 1947 to 1960.
** I tend to associate this with lower-middle / working class speech. While it comes from Karen in this context, I am speculating that she calls him that because he calls her that. It contrasts to the Marlows, who are always "darling" when an endearment is required.

(c) Why do Karen and Rowan fall out?
In Peter's Room, there is a discussion between Nicola and Rowan in which Rowan admits that, while farming is OK, the staying at home bit of it is very very dull. I get the impression that she is longing for excitement and the company of people her own age - and that maybe she thinks Karen has all that because she lives away from home at Oxford.

Now Karen arrives home, announcing that she is throwing all that away to get married. She announces this just after Rowan has watched someone have a major stroke, has a looming farm disaster (swine fever), which she now has to cope with alone; and also is facing the long term prospect of taking on the farm herself, aged 18 with 8 months experience under her belt, or possibly having to give it up. Yet everyone is running around paying attention to Karen, for the whole book.

So I think Rowan is angry for two reasons: (1) She is going through a bloody hard time with no support; and (2) she is facing the prospect that leaving school to go farming may have been a mistake, she may have to give up farming anyway, she has no A-levels so she's not going to get to university, and here's Karen throwing away the the things that Rowan gave up, to get married AND getting all the attention.

Maybe I'm thinking too much. But it's a plausible explanation to me, and I'm interested to know what you think.
[identity profile] tabouli.livejournal.com
Being one of them iggerant colonial types, I don't really understand the English class system. I have seen the Marlow family described as both 'upper middle class' and 'landed gentry'. Some questions:

1. What is the difference between 'upper middle class' and 'landed gentry' in terms of typical profile, assets/income, attitudes and behaviour?

2. Seeing Trennels is a large farm entailed to the Marlow line, the family is presumably 'landed', but does this necessarily make them 'gentry'?

3. Whereabouts do senior naval officers stand in the grand scheme of social status and income?

Tell all, ye wise and knowledgeable...


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