In Rogue Herries, Hugh Walpole turns a trunkful of novelistic faults into a drama that makes Wuthering Heights seem cheerful.
The Herries household moves to northwest England, a dark, foggy, isolated place whose superstition and backwardness is legendary even by 1735 standards.
Some years after his wife dies, Herries falls in love with a girl 30 years younger than he. When her lover is killed, Herries marries Maribell, hoping his love will be reciprocated.
Rogue Herries’ manic-depressive behavior is counterbalanced by the stalwart pleasantness of his unfailingly loyal son, David. The novel gives the impression that Walpole set out to write a book about David, but found his father more interesting.
Walpole opens one secondary plot after another only to abandon it, leaving a trail of red herrings worthy of Agatha Christie.
The ending is so melodramatic as to be laughable if it were not that the entire story is touched with insanity that makes absurdity seem normal.
In this hodgepodge, readers can never be sure whether what Rogue Herries says of his own motives is true. The violence of the period and the gloom of the landscape add to the general impression of a man trapped in a nightmare of his own creation.
by Hugh Walpole
Doubleday, Doran, 1930
1930 bestseller # 7
My grade B+
© 2010 Linda Gorton Aragoni