After ‘The Warden’ I really wanted to get stuck straight into ‘Barchester Towers’ but have so far resisted partly to give me the time to get the rest of the series. (I’m off to hunt them down across the cities charity shops in the morning and if that fails it’ll be an amazon binge.) Meanwhile what to read next? My general inclination has been for the 19th century but I’m aware that if I overdo it with that now, by Christmas it won’t appeal at all and I have a stack of ‘Classics’ (quite a bit of Trollope, some Edgeworth, a couple of Wilkie Collins, and some Oliphant amongst others) that I’m keen to work my way through, as well as who knows what else I‘ll find to enthuse over in the meantime.
It seems when Iphis’s mother is pregnant her husband tells her that sadly they can’t afford a girl, so if she has a girl it will have to be put to death. She’s not best pleased with this news and prays desperately to Isis who promises everything will be alright and tells her to bring up the child regardless. Iphis is born a girl, a fact her mother conceals from everyone bar the nurse. Iphis is a name used by both men and women, and she comforts herself that in this at least there is no lie. All goes well until Iphis and Ianthe fall in love – they have grown up together and their match is seen as desirable by all, apart perhaps from Iphis who loves Ianthe with all her heart but sees no way of possessing another woman. Another trip to the temple is called for and the outcome is a transformation. The girl Iphis enters, the boy Iphis leaves – the wedding takes place and everyone lives happily ever after. (Unusual for Ovid – most the stories in ‘Metamorphoses’ end with sadness.)
It’s a fantastically poetical book as well and one that appealed to every romantic idea I’ve ever had about falling in love; a book that sings out about how marvellously easy things are once you accept that you’ve met your match, and how exciting they are too. Autumn isn’t my favourite season so reading a definite spring book full of blossom, birdsong, and passion has been a real mood lifter, and it’s a book I mean to get my youngest sister to read whilst she’s still of an age to not expect this kind of exhilaration as a right at the beginning of something. (She’s a good natured girl who generally humours me, which I find hugely endearing.)