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« Age-old stories | Main | Past Perfect: Penelope Fitzgerald »

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LauraC

This was a reread for me, I had read it the first time about a year and a half ago. I do find the book "a perfect portrait of a time and place," although there isn't too much insight into the lives of the servants mentioned in the book. I really love this time period in English history leading up to and after WWI. There are cosier books to read, but I can't think of one that gives such a good snapshot of the time in a upper-class, country home of the time period in such a small number of pages. (I guess that really I am assuming it's accuracy.)

Of course, having already read the book, I knew what was coming, but I had forgotten a lot of the rest of the story. I especially love the descriptions of Sir Randolph's study and the boathouse. This is a book that I have borrowed from the library both times, and would love to find a copy used someday to keep. I have the DVD on hold at the library, and am looking forward to seeing it.

Cornflower

Yes, the study and the boathouse!
This was a re-read for me, too, though I first read the book a long time ago, and saw the film quite recently. The film is good, the book better, and it is rich enough to stand many readings, I should think.

Margaret @ BooksPlease

I liked The Shooting Party for its setting, it's evocation of a lost age without sentimentality. There is a great sense of foreboding right from the start and although I could see how it was foreshadowing the slaughter of the First World War, for me it was the knowledge that a death was going to take place, right from the opening paragraphs, that was uppermost. I kept wondering who was going to die, what was the error of judgment, who was going to do the killing. I was surprised.

I did think it was rather too slow, too drawn out in parts but that maybe because I'm used to much faster paced books. I also had to keep reminding myself of the characters - their relationships to each other and at times I got confused and had to back track.

I put many markers in the book - some in poignant passages, others in thoughtful ones such as Sir Randolph's thoughts about aristocracy: 'If you take away the proper functions of an aristocracy, what can it do but play games too seriously?'

Overall, it is a very descriptive book, which I always enjoy and a book about a period that interests me greatly. I shall read it again!

Cornflower

I noted that line of Sir Randolph's, too, and you're right about the sense of foreboding, and that bold statement of what's to come right in the opening paragraph.
Glad it appealed to you, Margaret, and that you're inclined to read it again!

Jenny

This was not a book that I would have chosen from the library myself, but saying that I enjoyed reading it.
We were told that something had caused a mild scandal during the time of 'The Shooting Party', so knew that it was going to happen somewhere in the book and had the incentive to keep reading chapter by chapter. In doing so we were introduced to the characters who were going to take part and the time and place. They were all well drawn and believable.
Stereotypical for the time? No there are still people like those today. However, due to mechanisation the number of people dependant on the land has reduced and today they are employees with employment rights. Licences to fish rivers and shooting clubs, that is the change that Sir Randolph could sense was coming.
The choice of victim, the gamekeeper's son, the evangelist even Sir Randolph himself all reflected that.
I hadn't thought to read any more of her books though.


Cornflower

Jenny, your remark about mechanisation and people whose livelihood depends on big estates today leads me to wonder what a contemporary version of this book would be like. It's an interesting thought.

Anji

It certainly was a snapshot into an era that no longer exists, where there was a large population living in and around these large country estates. The first world war changed so much with its massive slaughter, followed by the flu epidemic. It was the pause, the quiet before the storm, waiting for the car accident to happen or for the avalanche to roll down the side of the mountain.

I find myself drawn to that era, particularly at this time of the year, leading up to Remembrance Day. In our family we lost two uncles at the Battle of the Somme, an aunt to the Spanish flu and my grandfather was seriously disabled. I am still unsure how my Great-grandmother and the rest of our family found the strength to go forward.

However I digress, it was well written, eerie too, in as much as by the knowledge of what was to follow. Change was in the air and something was coming to an end. Sir Randolph knew it was coming, he couldn't quite put his finger on the what or how, but he was uneasy about the future. Perhaps he was the only character to have that sense of foreboding, the others believed that things would continue as they had done for future generations.

I think in the built up towards war was the notion that war was glorious and there was something noble about it all. The first world war also killed off that notion too, there was nothing glorious about the trenches.

It was a descriptive story and I found that I was drawn into the story, felt sick about the sheer numbers of wild life slaughtered. I also like the after thoughts of what happened later on to the characters.

It was a first for me and I shall certainly look out for the dvd but I wonder if it will be a case of the book being far better than the movie!

Christine Harding

I ordered this, but it didn't arrive today - I had hoped it would turn up before now, but it was a nice surprise when I returned from a day at Oxfam. So now I've had something to eat and a restorative cup of tea, and I'm curled up in my armchair, with another cup of tea, a slice of cake, and The Shooting Party... I'm only a few pages in, but enjoying it so far, and I begin to see why Helen commented when I reviewed A Month in the Country, saying The Shooting Party would make an interesting comparison. I'll add a comment in a few days if I may.

Cornflower

Do watch the film and see what you think, Anji.
Re. what you say about Sir Randolph sensing that change was in the air, that and his concerns about the future make his living to a great age and seeing the world transformed all the more poignant.

Cornflower

Come back whenever you're ready, Christine, and I hope you'll continue to enjoy the book - it is indeed a good piece to contrast with the wonderful A Month in the Country.

Ruthiella

This was a re-read for me too. It is a slow book despite its length and I found that it was much easier to read the second time around. There is a lot of tension when you don’t know who is going to die which dissipates when the reader is aware of the outcome. Removing that sense of foreboding and a familiarity with the characters really enabled me to savor the details and admire how Colgate packs so much in in so few pages. In answer to Cornflower’s question, I would say the book is both slow and studied AND a perfect portrait of time and place. I think the undercurrent of WWI looming on the horizon is deftly done, since only the reader is aware of it, not the characters. The war surely only hastened the demise of that way of life.

I have obtained a copy of the film, but haven’t watched it yet. Time ran away from me. But I will get to it. As much as I admire this book, I haven’t given any thought to seeking out any further books by Colgate, however. I am not sure why that is. Especially when last month’s pick by Jane Gardam inspired me to delve into her back catalogue post-haste.

Mr Cornflower

Curiously, I had the same difficulty with the book that I experienced with the film - I found the members of the house party started to blur and blend into a rather amorphous undifferentiated mass, to the extent that I had to keep reminding myself who some of the characters were and how they stood with each other. I wonder if this was a deliberate effect of the author's impressionistic technique, intended to make the same point about the upper classes as Lenin made about the Russian peasantry -"they are like a sack of potatoes, while each one has individual bumps and wrinkles they are by and large indistinguishable". More generally while I felt some parts (especially the descriptive passages)were effective, I think the book is an example of how it's just a bit too easy to raid the period just before the Great War for ready made themes - change and decay, self-centred naivety, social ritual and conformity,'mindless of their fate the infant victims play' etc.

Martina

While the sense of foreboding was truly chilling and the detail of an aristocratic English life convincing, I too struggled to distinguish one of the guests from another and was glad I had an actual book with pages to flip back through. Mr C's experience was certainly mine and I found his reading of this technique very helpful

It was the appearances of young Osbert and his duck that filled my heart with dread. Reminiscent of Chekhov and so poignant. This was a very resonant read and an intriguing choice to read a century on. It will linger in my mind.

Jenny

All the characters portrayed probably would be available today, with perhaps the exception of Olivia. Young romantic love would perhaps be more difficult.
Interestingly the female roles have not been mentioned in the reviews! Do we focus more on the male roles? Probably the role of females is another great change.

Susie Vereker

It's taken me about 24 hours to get as far as this. Perhaps my broadband or Typepad or anti-v are playing up.

Anyway I've read my ancient Penguin (tiny typeface) edition of the Shooting Party several times and each time I enjoy it more. It's not so much the characters that appeal as the descriptions of the countryside and the way of life. I'm surrounded by pheasants so it's just the people who own the shoots who are different. (Though of course there are, for instance, still chaps around who wouldn't dream of wearing the wrong clothes or doing anything that was bad form.)
It occurred to me that IC's multi-viewpoint way of writing is not so fashionable these days, and that it dilutes emotions, but then emotions were not so fashionable either pre the Great War.
Must try her other books.

Barbara MacLeod

This was new to me and I liked it. Like the others I had a bit of trouble keeping track of who was who but all in all it was an enjoyable read.

I thought the way she developed the story was well done. By that I mean you knew something was going to happen but when and to whom. So I guess it really is a period piece with a strong sense of foreboding.

Yes, I would read more of Isabel Colegate.

I just couldn't figure out the choice of artwork for the (Penguin Modern Classics) front cover! It shows a girl sitting on the side of a desk or table opposite a man holding out a letter to her. It looks like they are in a dining room with a sideboard in the background, smoking after dinner. The back cover states it is a photograph: “The Letter, 1915 by JBB Wellington” (an English photographer). Perhaps someone can explain what that has to do with this story!

Jenny

I can only assume it refers to the letter that Lionel was drafting for Olivia. Which was picked from the waste basket by John the valet, who copied it out and gave it to Ellen the maid.
Romantic Olivia would have understood it but practical Ellen called it a lot of nonsense.
Or perhaps the last letters written by the soldiers of WW1?

LauraC

Well, I watched the movie. You were right-the movie was good, quite true to the book, BUT I never would have cared for the movie if I hadn't read the book first, and while I liked the book very much and will read it for a third time sometime in the future, I will not see the movie again. Some books just should not be filmed.

Christine Harding

I finally got round to blogging about this, so am adding a comment here, even though it is very late!

There was lots to like, and I enjoyed the book,but I found some of the characters difficult to engage with and, like Cornelius Cardew, I felt as if I was viewing everything through a glass and couldn't quite touch the people or what was happening. I think Susie is right when she says the multi-viewpoint dilutes emotions.

But I thought it was chilling how the slaughter of the game fore-shadows the deaths of of a generation of young men in WW1, and Tom's killing was every bit as pointless and senseless as those war deaths.

I liked the portrayal of society, and their emphasis on doing the right thing and manners (even if they don't behave as they should, it's OK as long as they are discreet). And I enjoyed the way the servants bask in the reflected glory of their marksmen masters, and the descriptions of the food(your choice of a Jekyll recipe was spot-on - I adore her book).

And if I re-read it I think different things will leap out at me, and make me think about different issues.

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