A tale of abuse and limited freedom

The Vet's Daughter: A Virago Modern Classic (VMC) - Barbara Comyns, Jane Gardam

My tutor recommended I read this when he read the proposal for my end of module assignment. My story is about losing a parent and reevaluating that and other relationships, but it has a magical realism slant. The reason for recommending this book, he said, was that this is a very straight story that suddenly becomes supernatural at the end. Having read it I suspect his memory of the tale is flawed. 


The Vet's Daughter is a tale of a young woman who is stuck in a very unhealthy situation, or rather a series of unhealthy situations, with no means to escape. Her father is abusive to the point that she fears he will one day kill her. Her mother becomes very ill and dies early in the book and her father brings a housekeeper/mistress into the house (home implies a safe place). The mistress is manipulative and frequently nasty to Alice (the first person narrator), but the most unforgivable thing she does is

when she attempts to sell the young woman's virginity. This isn't said explicitly, but it is the only explanation that makes sense.


Between the harrowing nature of Alice's days she finds peace in moments of levitation, that she suspects everyone experiences but never talks about. This freedom is short lived and eventually leads to a tragic end. 

(show spoiler)



It's evocatively written and a powerful read.