While painting the Dorgone River Valley landscape, Richard Graham encounters a witch-like old woman who looks like a portrait by Goya. He accepts the Comtesse de Lomoudrie’s invitation to come to tea and bring his wife.
On the way, Richard and Jill visit a cemetery where one grave, that of Marthe Ludérac, stands isolated from the rest.
The Old Countess by Anne Douglas Sedgwick.
Grosset & Dunlap, 1927. 373 pp. 1927 bestseller #9. My grade: B+.
At the Manoir, they find Mme. Lomoudire’s landlady is also a Marthe Ludérac. She’s the daughter of the woman in the lonely grave.
Jill, sensitive to suffering, feels sorry for the Countess, but knows instinctively that Marthe needs her as a friend.
Richard agrees to paint the Countess’s portrait to get a chance to see Marthe, which puts him in conflict with the jealous countess, his wife, and the attracted but self-controlled Marthe.
Anne Douglas Sedgwick portrays the four characters using tiny dabs of facts, details, and emotions. Jill and Marthe are straightforward, caring and incredibly good people; Richard and the Countess are manipulative and selfish and nasty.
Gradually the tiny bits add up to a crisis.
The atmosphere of The Old Countess is creepy, the plot contrived, the characters too all-of-a-piece to be believable.
And without a pretty good command of French, readers will miss much of the story.
©2017 Linda Gorton Aragoni