They lived solemnly ever after
REBECCA AND ROWENA (Hesperus, £ 5.99) by William Makepeace Thackeray is a delightful send-up of Victorian medievalism in the form of a parodic sequel to Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe (1819), addressed to “well-beloved novel-readers and gentle patronesses of romance”. It was published in 1850, that quintessentially “Victorian” year when Dickens’s David Copperfield and Tennyson’s In Memoriam were also published. Scott’s novel describes how, in the aftermath of the Third Crusade, Richard I and Robin Hood jointly wrest the English throne back from wicked Prince John. Against this backdrop, Sir Wilfrid of Ivanhoe reclaims his lost inheritance and marries his first love, “the icy, faultless and prim” Rowena. But only after his rather more interesting Jewish amour, Rebecca, is quietly packed off to Spain with her father. Thackeray’s Rowena is a grotesque chapel-going hypocrite who flogs her servants and would cheerfully see all British Jews “exterminated” (WM’s word) out of jealousy of her husband’s feelings for Rebecca: “Married I am sure they were, and adopted little Cedric; but I don’t think they had any other children, or were subsequently very boisterously happy. Of some sort of happiness melancholy is a characteristic, and I think these were a solemn pair, and died rather early.”
Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate (LeftWord, Rs 150) by Naomi Klein brings together articles and speeches by this anti-corporate activist, documenting an international debate around the question of “what values will govern the global age”. “In the name of meeting the demands of multinational investors, governments the world over were failing to meet the needs of the people who elected them…Underpinning it all was the betrayal of the fundamental need for democracies that are responsive and participatory, not bought and paid for by Enron or the International Monetary Fund.”
Clive Avenue (Penguin, Rs 275) by T.S. Tirumurti is a novel set in a tranquil and anachronistic cul de sac in the heart of Chennai. Clive Avenue is the home of the conservative Sundarams, the French Leonards, Rajaram, the IAS, and his wife, and Selvan, the film-star who had recently bought a house on it. The Sundarams’ son comes back from the US as an eligible MBA, and instead of looking for the perfect Iyer girl, renews contact with the Leonards’ daughter, who works for Le Figaro.