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"A Legacy is a story from a vanished world, a world before the deluge, and it provides its reader with the disorienting, melancholy pleasure derived from looking at old maps. It is a sophisticated book with a cosmopolitan gloss which flatters the reader, induces a nostalgia for other people’s past: for the vanished configurations of fallen empires, and days when the dice were shaken differently, where emotions were operatic and whims well-funded, where borders were crossed with ease but countries were different from each other, where beauty was viewed not merely as a personal asset but as part of an aesthetic tradition, and where raw experience had uncertain value till it was rationally examined and filtered through the lens of high culture...For a modern reader, some of the pleasure of A Legacy may be nostalgic, but the thrust of its intention is forward. What is the legacy of the nineteenth century, how and in what manner did it transform intolerant and divided societies into societies where mass murder was practiced?" —Hilary Mantel, The New York Review of Books
“The characters are allowed to speak and see; they move about a great deal…Bedford is…interested in what they do, what they seem like to others, what they say, and what she can do to her sentences…Her genius is to make all this matter, to allow surface to suggest depth, to create excitement by playing with tone, to direct the reader toward the lives of her characters and the spirit of the age by using implication, by letting the rhythms do the work, by surprising with her diction and the texture of her prose and her dialogue. A Legacy makes clear that she is one of the finest and most original prose stylists of her age.” —Colm Tóibín, Bookforum
"[W]itty and opulently beautiful…[a] richly realized historical drama….Partly ironic, partly nostalgic, A Legacy calls to mind other novels that portray the zenith and decline of an ostentatious old order. It’s as funny as Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited but mercifully free of that book’s snobbery and God-bothering. It has the tragicomic temperament of Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks and Robert Musil’s The Man Without Qualities, but its writing, skimmed of exposition and distilled to quicksilver impressions, is more enticing. The novel fuses the heft and layering of a 19th-century family chronicle with a sparkling, allusive prose style learned from modernism…A Legacy is [Bedford’s] magnum opus, and a little harmony has been restored to literature now that it’s back again in bookstores." —Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal
Posted October 22, 2002
You'll need to read this book at least twice to figure out what's going on. I read 75 pages before I figured out the character's names and how they're related to each other. Even then, I don't think I got it exactly right. Several people die in this story, and the ending should have been emotional. But, I was too confused to be invested in the characters so it was disappointing. I do have a feeling that this book would get better the more times you read through it.
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