Review 1539: Mary Lavelle

It was interesting to me to learn that Mary Lavelle had been banned in Ireland as an immoral book, for in its own way, it’s very moral. Still, I guess it was shocking for 1936.

Mary is a young Irish woman who is engaged to be married to a kind and worthy young man who must wait to marry her until he can earn enough. His prospects are good, but he is paid a niggardly wage by his miser father.

Almost on a whim and despite her fiancé’s objections, Mary decides to take a governess job for a year in Spain, and the beginning of the novel finds her on the way there by train. Spain is not as she imagined it, but from the first she likes it. The Areavaga family are gracious and kind, and their three daughters soon like Mary very much. She makes some friends within a group of British governesses she meets at the local café, although she is sometimes shocked at their behavior and their airs of superiority toward the Spanish.

Mary is unconsciously beautiful and innocent. She is immediately attractive to Pablo Areavaga, her charges’ father, but he is too principled to show it. Trouble comes, though, with the arrival of Juanito, Areavaga’s married son, for Juanito falls in love with her at first sight.

I have read two books now by O’Brien, and both gave me a sense of a ferocious intelligence. Both are set in Spain, and in both, she examines the conflict between religion, principle, and emotional drives. The descriptions of the scenery and people of Spain are vivid and sometimes lyrical. This is another good book from my Classics Club list.

One comment on my new edition of Virago Modern Classics. Almost as soon as I began reading the book, the last six or eight pages fell out. Thereafter, I was constantly tucking them back in, afraid I was going to lose them.

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6 thoughts on “Review 1539: Mary Lavelle

  1. Jane August 11, 2020 / 2:55 pm

    Ireland and Spain in one book sounds perfect!

    • whatmeread August 11, 2020 / 4:15 pm

      There’s a lot more Spain than Ireland, though. In fact, almost no Ireland.

  2. Liz Dexter August 12, 2020 / 12:42 pm

    I’m sure I’ve read this but it must have been pre-blog! It does sound like a good one, although what a shame about your copy!

    • whatmeread August 12, 2020 / 6:48 pm

      Yes, I don’t often get a paperback that I think is going to hold up very long, but that was ridiculous.

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