Thursday, May 12, 2016

Love For Lydia by H. E. Bates

Lydia arrived an awkward girl, bloomed into an attractive woman, discovered men liked her, and gaily left a wake of bodies in her path. When she saw what she had accomplished she tried to burn herself out in a two year binge of dancing and drink and ended up desperately lonely and guilty in a sanitarium.

Some might believe Lydia was a tease and vixen, partying her way into destruction. Others may feel she was a girl-child who, when released from the 'cotton-wool'  prison of her girlhood, mishandles her sudden sexual power over men. Or is she the genetic product of her profligate parents, an alcoholic mother paid off to keep away and the distant, womanizing father who proscribed her sheltered girlhood?

Love for Lydia by H.E. Bates is an autobiographical homage to his home town, with the narrator Richardson sharing Bates' early jobs and family.
It is the story of young people growing up, the thrill and torment of first love, the end of a way of life, and class stricture. It is the story of what happens when four young men fall for Lydia and how she handles their adulation. It is the story of learning what love really means. It is a love story to England's pastoral beauty.
A cuckoo flew with bubbling throaty calls across the wheat-field, disappearing beyond the copses. In the still air I caught again a great breath of grass and hawthorn and bluebell and earth beating through new pulses of spring loveliness to the very edge of summer.
The novel begins in 1929 when Richardson is nineteen and a reporter for the town paper. Richardson is sent to the Aspen manor to learn about the eldest Aspen brother's demise. The deceased's elderly spinster sisters introduce Richardson to his heir and daughter, Lydia. The aunts suggest he take her skating, show her some fun, for they don't want her growing up in isolation. Ill dressed and stick thin with candlestick curls, Lydia is having fun with peers for the first time. It is a magical time.
Above the trees a mass of winter stars, glittering with crystal flashes of vivid green, then white, then ice-clear blue, flashed down through a wide and wonderful silence that seemed to splinter every now and then with a crack of frost-taut boughs in the copses, down where the drive went, above the frozen stream.
Richardson discovers that Lydia is game for anything, pushing him past his comfort zone. And into regular clandestine meetings where she enjoys his physical attention. As Lydia fills out her aunt's hand-me-down dresses Richardson falls in love, and Lydia claims to love him too.
'Oh! Darling--don't stop loving me'--she said. 'Don't ever stop loving me-'...'Even if I'm bad to you--would you?--will you always?''Yes,' I said.
The aunts press the young people to attend dances and Lydia's social network expands. Richardson's best friend, Alex, local yeoman's son Tom, and chauffeur Blackie all fall under Lydia's charm and vie for her love. Lydia is 'excitable and impulsive," following her instincts thoughtlessly.  In the battle for Lydia's attention hearts are broken and even a death occurs.

The descriptions of the landscape are beautifully written. Richardson seeks out nature as a respite and for its restorative effects. The town is a center of shoe manufacturing, an unattractive and crowded place. Richardson is very aware that the loveliness of the land has been infringed upon by mankind.

In 1977 I watched and enjoyed the Masterpiece Theater's series Love for Lydia but had not read the book until now. I am so glad I did. I will look to read more by Mr. Bates in the future.
Anyone interested in the English Language must read Mr. Bates, one of its outstanding masters. Times Literary Supplement.
Learn more about H. E. Bates at
See a clip of the series Love for Lydia at

I received a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Love for Lydia
by H. E. Bates
Bloombury Books
Publication Date May 12, 2016
ISBN: 9781448216444

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