Great Granny Webster by Caroline Blackwood

Caroline Blackwood, heir to the Guinness fortune, recounts an unforgettable visit to her great-grandmother’s house. This aristocratic family also includes her frivolous but suicidal Aunt Lavinia and crazy fairy-loving grandmother who tried to kill her brother on his christening day.

After a minor surgical procedure, fourteen year old Caroline went to recuperate at her great grandmother’s house near the sea.  Great Granny Webster was a singular character. Although quite wealthy, she refused to heat or maintain her large freezing cold home and ate horrible food out of  cans. Her days were spent sitting in an uncomfortable high back chair doing nothing but staring into space. She wanted nothing from life and gave nothing back. She is a joyless, stingy creature whose main goal in life seems to be simply existing until she dies.

At one point GGW tells Caroline that she takes after herself and will receive her bed when she dies. Caroline is horrified at the thought of both. Her Aunt Lavinia on the other hand seems determined to get every scrap of fun out of life. The minus side is she often tries to kill herself.  Caroline never met her grandmother but a mutual acquaintance fills in the details of her descent into madness and subsequent attempt to kill her brother. He also sheds light on the possible reasons her father, killed when she was nine in the war, was a frequent visitor at GGW’s house. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t for the money.

This book was supposed to be a dark comedy and there certainly was plenty to work with. But the comedy part fell flat and ended up sounding bitter and rather redundant. The part where GGW  brought out her daughter “out” into London society could have been hilarious.  But over and over again we read what a monster and all around horrible person Great Granny Webster was. Seriously it went on and on. Describe people and situations and let the readers decide for themselves, please.

Caroline Blackwood was supposedly a great beauty and “dazzling raconteur” but in my opinion, not a great writer.  The greatest disappointment was that I thought Great Granny Webster would be one of my favorites for this year.

 

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