Browser review: Lady Gregory’s rich legacy revisited and illuminated

Laetitia Colombani’s new novel, the lives of three women deliver tales of resilience

Lady Gregory. ‘The growing sophistication of her literary work’ is traced in new book.  Photograph:  Hulton Getty

Lady Gregory. ‘The growing sophistication of her literary work’ is traced in new book. Photograph: Hulton Getty

 

Lady Gregory’s Early Irish Writings, 1883-1893

James Pethica, ed,
Colin Smythe
Lady Gregory’s writing life prior to meeting WB Yeats has generally been thought of as what James Pethica calls “creatively fallow”. However, as this book attests, that was far from being the case. A pamphlet on the Land League, an early memoir, and three short stories, all show Gregory’s sensitive and engaged political responses. As with the rest of the volumes in publisher Colin Smythe’s series of Gregory’s writings, this is a beautifully produced hardcover book, with illustrative plates and ample notes. Pethica’s introduction which runs to more than 100 pages, is a substantial piece of work. The pieces published here certainly call for a reconsideration of Lady Gregory’s evolution as a writer. The growing sophistication of her literary work is illustrated convincingly by short stories set in the west of Ireland (completed under the pseudonym Angus Grey), and her anonymous pamphlet A Phantom’s Pilgrimage, written in response to Gladstone’s 1893 Home Rule Bill, is an engaging example of the growing strain in her unionist politics. This is a necessary, welcome and illuminating volume. – Seán Hewitt

The Braid

Laetitia Colombani, translated by Louise Rogers Lalaurie
Picador, £12.99
This short, triptych novel flits between the lives of three women: Giulia who works in the family wig-making workshop in Sicily; Smita who plots a potentially fatal escape from Badlapur, and Sarah, the stereotypical workaholic lawyer who believes she can outsmart life itself while living in Montreal.

The well-constructed plot contains some thought-provoking meditations on female resilience and class, although it would have benefited from further explanation following the abrupt and over-simplified ending. Smita’s plight in India as she attempts to secure a brighter future for her daughter Lalita is the most moving of the three narratives.

Laetitia Colombani uses the symbol of the braid to remind us of the invisible kinship that exists in the objects we use, and the snapshots of India and Italy are like small windows into another world. A thoughtful book that should be read in one sitting to best understand the interlocking lives of Giulia, Smita and Sarah. – Mia Colleran

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