Abandoned! The Man Who Loved Children

I read this classic novel (it even says Modern Classic on the cover!) years ago, and when I spied it on the shelves at my parents' house, I thought, I should really read that again. I remember being spooked by the cover art and thinking it might be a horror story, which in a way it is.

Published in 1940, this tale of a deeply dysfunctional family has the ring of autobiography about it. Henny and Sam are the warring parents, locked in a miserable marriage, whose relationship is played out through the allegiances of their brood of children, including gifted, clumsy, ugly duckling Louisa.

I skipped the introduction this time around, slightly daunted by the smallness of the print and the number of pages I was signing up for. And as I read the first hundred or so pages, I was struck by the brilliance and clarity of the writing, the portrait of the intimate cruelty inside an 'ordinary' family. It's great, powerful, difficult stuff.

But when I got to the part (spoiler) where Louie drowns the cat in the bath, I thought, how badly do I really want to spend time with these unhappy people? I get it, I thought, I remember this; they're all horrible, Louie has to escape to survive, Sam is a genial monster, Henny is a troubled shrew.

There are so many other books I'm dying to read. Do I really need to slog through this one again? And I thought, no.

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