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Princes in the Land by Joanna Cannon

Updated: Aug 24, 2023

from the endpapers of the Persephone edition

Persephone Books

Guest Review by Susan Hudson

After bringing up children, Priscilla is left asking herself, what was it all for? This unusual portrayal of a wife and mother brought tears to my eyes. We meet Priscilla in the first chapter, travelling by train to her grandfather’s house after her ne’er do well father has died. I expected a novel about a favoured grandchild adapting to upper class British life in the early years of the 20th century. Instead, through a twist, her story takes a different turn. Priscilla marries and finds that she must adapt, then subdue her natural outlook. She justifies this by focusing on her children’s future - not in an overbearing way - but by showing them beauty, nature, and learning. In her mid 40’s the children are grown and their paths differ from what she expected. She begins to think of herself as middle aged (old for the time; the book was written in 1938) and the question of who she is and whether her life has value surfaces more urgently. While some of the writing is old fashioned, the story and sentiment isn’t; it touched me deeply.

Read another review here.

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