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Thoughts on Vera by Elizabeth von Arnim

April 29, 2011


Vera by Elizabeth von Arnim is a tale of death, love, and marriage (in that order).  It’s hard to talk about this book without giving away much of the plot, so I’ll do my best.  Elizabeth von Arnim was a New Zealand born British novelist.  She began writing in the late nineteenth century with Vera being published in 1921.

The story is of a man and woman who meet after tragic circumstances; the death of his wife and her father.  They fall in love and get married, but things are not as happy as they seem.  Von Arnim does a splendid job at character development and that is what makes this book such an absolute success.  There are three primary characters in this novel, Lucy, Everard Wemyss, and Miss Entwhistle.  Vera, the namesake of the novel, is always in the background.  She was Everard’s wife and died in a highly tragic way.  Lucy’s father dies on the day she meets Everard and he becomes her protector and they eventually fall in love.

“It was an intimacy arrived at at a bound, with no preliminary steps.  It was a holy thing, based on mutual grief, protected from everything ordinary by the great wings of Death.”

Miss Entwhistle is Lucy’s aunt and becomes another protective figure in Lucy’s life.  She is portrayed as a sweet, loving, and intelligent spinster.

Von Arnim writes in such a way that you fall into the story easily through her writing and her characterizations.  Lucy is constantly referred to as simple, but as you read on she doesn’t seem as simple as she is said to be.  Everard is portrayed as a stout and natural by the book fellow and he is just that, but his character too takes twists and turns or really it may be the reader’s perception of his character that changes.  Miss Entwhistle is the most constant character in the book.

Throughout the novel, you can not help but feel that von Arnim is poking fun at Everard.  His treatment of his servants and Lucy are tragically comical.  He times his servants with a watch and calls Lucy his “little one.”  There is definitely some humor within the somber setting of the novel.

My favorite quotes in this story are when books are referred to.  Everard has a library that he keeps under lock and key with books that he purchased, but has never read Lucy on the other hand

“was accustomed to the most careless familiarity in intercourse with books, to books loose everywhere, books overflowing out of their shelves, books in every room, instantly accessible, friendly books, books used to being read aloud, with their hospitable pages falling open at a touch.”

Isn’t that how books should be kept?  I love the adjectives in this quote: accessible, friendly, and hospitable!

“The books people read, — was there anything more revealing?”

This is such a poignant quote.  How true it is that we can so often be characterized by the books we read!

The subject matter in this novel at times can be dark, but von Arnim adds her own touch of humor and mocking to it.  The characters are ones that you come to know intimately.  Von Arnim’s imagery and style of writing is also one that is both unique and wonderful to explore.

“Was there anything in the world so blackly desolate as to be left alone in grief?  This poor broken fellow creature — and she herself, so lost, so lost in loneliness — they were two half drowned things, clinging together in a shipwreck — how could she let him go, leave him to himself — how could she be let go, left to herself –“

Overall, the novel Vera by Elizabeth von Arnim is an excellent read.  The characters are truly memorable and wonderfully developed.

I downloaded this book for free from

6 Comments leave one →
  1. April 30, 2011 8:40 am

    I know and love several of von Armin’s books, especially Enchanted April, but not this one. Lovely review that puts in straight on my to-acquire list!

    • April 30, 2011 8:51 am

      This was my first foray into von Arnim and it was an excellent book. I plan on reading Enchanted April sometime soon.

  2. April 30, 2011 12:50 pm

    Would luv to read this one.

  3. Lydia E. Dugan permalink
    April 15, 2014 4:11 pm

    I read Vera and loved it! It reminded me of Rebecca. All of von Arnim’s women are like Lucy: passive, quiet, unassertive, and generally meek. The book just seemed to end with no resolution. Poor Lucy. I do not think she had the ability to assert herself. You cannot muster any anger toward her; she is a product of her time and circumstances. She possesses no life experience whatsoever—totally secluded. I suppose the book had to end the way it did.

  4. mary cassidy permalink
    January 24, 2015 8:24 am

    The bleakest book I have ever read. A bully manages to isolate his victim from family and friends so that he can worry her to death.

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