Reads: Consequences-E.M. Delafield

Consequences is the story of Alex Clare who we meet as a young girl learning to play a game of the same name. Alex learns to play the game quickly and wants to show her siblings her way of playing. While we see that she quickly gets the childhood game, she remains perplexed about the life of grown-ups and what she later sees as a mockery of personal closeness for which she desires. DSCN0230The inability or refusal to play this game of navigating through society is of course inexcusable (particularly for women) during this time and since there are limited options for women, leads her to her ultimate consequence. Alex watches while all around her people win at society’s game, even people who may be undeserving. As a child she marvels at the follies of her school friend and younger sister. I began to see as Alex aged that she became more thoughtful and perceptive of her situation and the reasons for her struggles. My attitude toward Alex changed dramatically as she began to open to further thought and analysis of her position. By the warmth of a fire she reflects on forgiveness, about what it means to her and why her family was not able to bestow forgiveness upon her. The few reviews that I have read about reactions to Alex’s character include frustration with her behavior and her naivety, but really she could have acted in no other way. After all, it is the way she was raised.
I am not yet ready to say that Alex is a (true) failure. Throughout the novel she repeatedly pronounces that she is and feels surely that everyone around her knows that she has failed: “Only 10 years, and the bitterness of a lifetime’s failure encompassed her spirit”. For a woman living in her time period she is a failure simply for not marrying, she is a failure for leaving her religious Order, she is a failure for many many things. Alex is not a failure though because she has the courage to defy society even when she knows it will mean disgrace. The consequences for such defiance during this time were very real yet she always selected her path. She is a hero, possibly in the same manner that we now view Edna of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening and Anna Karenina.
Maybe she fails because she is Alex, a mixed up, confused, and ungrateful person. Maybe if the convent, in which she sought the ultimate love, had been more open to personal relations, maybe if Alex’s family had been able to be closer to her instead of “hard and self-contained” they may have been able to redirect her. Maybe it is because of their failure to attempt to understand her distress that she fails. This we see clearly in the epitaph where her family sits puzzled. This of course is another artifact of the time.

EM Delafield is best known for her novel The Diary of a Provincial Lady and appears from my reading of the preface to have had a similar life. I loved this story and intend to seek out more of Delafield’s work.

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13 responses to “Reads: Consequences-E.M. Delafield

  • Brigindo

    Have you read Persuasion by Jane Austin?

  • Claire

    Consequences is one (of many) Persephones that I really want to read so it’s great to read such a positive review. I also have Diary of a Provincial Lady on my to-be-read list.

  • Nymeth

    This sounds absolutely wonderful. Why did it take me so long to discover Persephone?

  • Laura McDonald

    I would love to publish this as a free ebook on Girlebooks, but I can’t find it in digital format anywhere. Is it not in public domain? That would be quite strange since it was first published before the standard 1922 cutoff date for public domain. Anyway, thanks for the review–I’m quite curious about this one!

  • LeaningSun

    Brigindo, Persuasion is on my list for September. I’m excited because it’s my first Austen (gasp). I think you’d recommended it to me before and I bought it and forgot.

    Claire, I did enjoy this one and since I’ve heard so much about Provincial lady I think I’ll seek that one out soon

    Nymeth, I’m only just discovering Persephone myself. Joy!

    Laura, I’m not sure if Consequeces is in the public domain. It is old enough. I found what looks like a complete scan from Google Books, but I”m unfamiliar with copyright laws and older works.

  • Laura McDonald

    Ah yes, I’ve found that Google scan too, thanks. If only they had a good text version–I can’t do much with Google’s image scans. There’s nothing at Project Gutenberg, maybe I should suggest it to them…

  • Reads: Cheerful Weather for the Wedding-Julia Stachey « Leaning Toward the Sun

    […] Dickens here and Making Conversation by Christine Longford here and Consequences by EM Delafield here. Enjoy! Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Sunshine insurance covers you on rainy […]

  • The Literary Stew

    Just finished reading this for the Women Unbound Challenge. I felt drained after reading the book and sad but ultimately it is a brilliant novel. I hope to review it soon.

  • LeaningSun

    I thought so too. It was wonderful and I thought about it for a long time afterwards. I’ll be looking for your review.

  • The Literary Stew

    Just posted my review on this. I loved it!

  • Persephone Book No. 13: Consequences by E.M.Delafield « The Persephone Forum

    […] Maybe she fails because she is Alex, a mixed up, confused, and ungrateful person. Maybe if the convent, in which she sought the ultimate love, had been more open to personal relations, maybe if Alex’s family had been able to be closer to her instead of “hard and self-contained” they may have been able to redirect her. Maybe it is because of their failure to attempt to understand her distress that she fails. This we see clearly in the epitaph where her family sits puzzled. This of course is another artifact of the time. leaningtowardthesun […]

  • Persephone Book No 13: Consequences by E.M.Delafield « The Persephone Forum

    […] Maybe she fails because she is Alex, a mixed up, confused, and ungrateful person. Maybe if the convent, in which she sought the ultimate love, had been more open to personal relations, maybe if Alex’s family had been able to be closer to her instead of “hard and self-contained” they may have been able to redirect her. Maybe it is because of their failure to attempt to understand her distress that she fails. This we see clearly in the epitaph where her family sits puzzled. This of course is another artifact of the time. leaningtowardthesun […]

  • Review: "Consequences" by E.M. Delafield | Girlebooks - ebooks by the gals

    […] Consequences is available for free in our ebook catalog. Thanks to Amy and Marc who proofread this text as part of our proofreading project with freeliterature.org. The following review was first published at Leaning Towards the Sun. […]

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