“But the stuff of old dreams had a frightening potency.”
In the book “Time After Time”, elderly siblings, Jasper, April, May, and Baby June live in Durraghglass, the rather seedy family mansion in Southern Ireland. In better days, Durraghglass was the scene for hunts and balls, but all that is past. The siblings now live in a state of faded splendour. They are fierce about their privacy–in spite of the shared space. The siblings harbour resentments towards each other for past grievances, but they are forced by financial necessity to live together in a way “mummy wanted.” The siblings are “captive for year past forgotten year, locked in inviolable small conflicts and old adventures.”
April is stone deaf. She lavishes herself with expensive beauty treatments and hordes alcohol in her room. May compensates for her deformed hand by restoring damaged antiques, designing flower arrangements and creating tweed pictures. Baby June (who won’t see 60 again), spends all day on the farm with her horses, her chickens, and her handy man, Christy Lucey. Jasper surrounds himself with horticultural magazines while staving his sisters off from the kitchen. The kitchen is his domain–and he reigns supreme–creating gourmet dishes–even if it means stealing the meat from the dogs’ dishes while no one is looking.
The siblings all have pets. April has a nippy Chihuahua, and they sometimes wear matching jackets. May has a terrier, Gripper, who sports himself on people’s legs whenever he has the chance, and Baby June’s Labrador, Tiny, is in a perpetual state of heat. Jasper’s cat, Mister Minkle rules the kitchen along with his master. Even the dogs maintain a sort of rivalry, and the sisters with their pets are “a bit like super nannies with rival babies.”
Even though the siblings loathe one another and manage to eek a thrill from the smallest, sneakiest slight, they hobble along in a state of shared domesticity. But one day, their routine is disrupted by the arrival of cousin Leda. Leda, a European–and Jewish–simply disappeared during WWII. Everyone assumed she was dead, but she returns under somewhat mysterious circumstances, and soon, the Swifts are hovering around Leda while she plays favourites with them all.
“Time after Time” is my first Molly Keane novel, and I was thrilled to find her. This novel of manners is extremely well written with a very dry sense of humour, but the real joy, for me, is in the characters of the Swift siblings. The characters were amazingly delightful–even with all the nastiness that abounds in almost every sentence. Keane’s characters are authentic, and fascinating, and the story is written with a certain generosity and insightful accceptance of the shortcomings of human behaviour. I was quite captivated by the story. Keane also writes under the name M.J.Farrell, and this can be a bit confusing when you go searching for her books.