The Vet’s Daughter by Barbara Comyns
RATING: ★★★★★ (5/5!)
Existing in that lovely space between surrealism (almost magical realism?) and gritty realism, this book manages to encompass so much in relatively few pages. Set in early 20th century cockney London, it makes for a sort of twisted Cinderella tale: the heroine is left to a life of drudgery in her abusive, alcoholic father’s veterinarian practice after the death of her enervated mother; she is surrounded by shabby animals who she talks to; she is eventually faced with an equally horrible and abusive step-mother; a ‘bulldog’ of a charwoman obsessed with gardening presents herself as a sort of fairy godmother; and a bumbling middle-aged vet becomes a possible ‘prince charming’.
Comyns creates a character both naïve and world-weary, who comes to combat her depressing situation in a highly imaginative way. With an overall elegiac tone, Comyns subtly builds a pall of dread around the reader while still leaving you surprised and unsettled by the ending.
I will not give away the at once lovely and horrible plot twist.
author Barbara Comyns