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‘A village is like a stage that retains the same scenery throughout all the acts of the play. The actors come and go, and walk to and fro, with gestures that their passions fair or foul use them to… A country village has a way now and again of clearing out all its inhabitants in one rush, as though it were grown tired of that particular combination of human destinies, and shakes itself free of them as a tree might do of unwelcome leaves..’
The action of T.F. Powys’ blackly absorbing, deeply characteristic Innocent Birds unfolds in the English croft of Madder, an ostensibly sleepy and settled milieu where the local people, nonetheless, are prone to acting on impulses and urges that have the power to bring themselves (and others) to ruin.
‘There is Mr. Bugby, who buys “The Silent Woman” because of the sinister coincidence that successive keepers of that tavern were speedily widowed. There is Maud Chick, an imbecile girl longing to have a baby, whom Mr. Bugby avoids after one experience; and Polly Wimple, prim Miss Pettifer’s maid whom he does not avoid, to her great cost. A cormorant, far from the sea, that flaps and roosts arbitrarily at dusk whenever anything especially morbid or malicious is about to take place, is an apt metaphor for a shadowy flight of the author’s imagination…’
Time, June 1926
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