The Sugar House Antonia White

ISBN: 9780919630475

Published: 1979


255 pages


The Sugar House  by  Antonia White

The Sugar House by Antonia White
1979 | Paperback | PDF, EPUB, FB2, DjVu, audiobook, mp3, ZIP | 255 pages | ISBN: 9780919630475 | 4.64 Mb

The Sugar House is the third novel in Antonia White’s Frost in May quartet. At the end of The Lost Traveller, Clara Batchelor had just freed herself from an impetuous engagement to Archie Hughes – Follett. As The Sugar House opens, Clara is about to embark on a tour of a play with a theatrical company. She is head over heels in love with Stephen Tye, a fellow actor who will be touring with a different company.“At last the whole company stood yawning and shivering on York platform.

In the murk under the sooty roof on which rain drummed steadily, it was hard to realise that it was half past four on a summer morning. Everyone was longing for a cup of tea, but no buffet was open at that hour”As Clara endures a series of drab provincial boarding houses, sharing a room with the irrepressible Maidie, a fellow catholic, she dreams of meeting up with Stephen, determined to marry him even if, as she suspects, he makes her unhappy in the process. Clara receives a letter from her father, informing her that Archie is back from South America and wants to see her, she prepares herself to see the man she jilted four years earlier, the man who can’t but help remind her of the tragedy that had preceded it.Following their awkward meeting in Birmingham, Archie, cynical and drinking too much, hooks up with Clara’s theatre company.

Archie is often childlike, his enthusiasms and sulks extreme and often unrealistic. He still loves Clara, declaring he would still marry her – on any terms. Despite being twenty-three – Archie’s family money is held in trust for another two years – he is hopeless at managing his allowance and is constantly looking around for a quick money making scheme. When Stephen betrays Clara, reeling and hurt Clara marries Archie, much to her father’s delight and her mother’s dismay. Taking a tiny house they can ill afford in a Chelsea populated with artists, Clara is desperate to find the safety she once knew in childhood and to win her father’s approval.

Archie and Clara are like children playing at house. Clara comes to think of her dream house as a sugar house, like that of Hansel and Gretel. However they are not children anymore, and the realities of their situation and the world they live in starts to turn to a nightmare.“Now!’ said Archie, in a tone of immense satisfaction. She opened her eyes. Spread out on the floor were two magnificent Bassett-Lowke model engines- a tail of coaches for each- stations, signal boxes and a glittering heap of rails.

She could do nothing but stare open mouthed.‘Thought that would knock you flat,’ said Archie, grinning with pleasure.”Judging by other reviews I have seen of this book, The Sugar House may be the least popular of the four novels. Having loved The Lost Traveller so much when I read it a couple of months ago – I was looking forward to this novel, and for me it didn’t disappoint, although The Lost Traveller is still my favourite to date. I loved the first half of the novel, with Clara touring with the theatrical company. Antonia White brilliantly depicts the life of provincial boarding houses and the actors that made their living by going from town to town on late night trains.

There is much less emphasis on Catholicism in this novel, although Clara’s religion still helps guide her through her life and marriage. As this novel ends Clara is still only twenty-two – and I long to know what life holds in store for her.

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