Pastors and Masters

Pastors and Masters

by Ivy Compton-Burnett, Sue Townsend

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781843914532
Publisher: Hesperus Press
Publication date: 10/01/2009
Series: Hesperus Modern Voices
Pages: 120
Product dimensions: 4.70(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Ivy Compton-Burnett (1884–1969) was a celebrated English novelist noted for her wit and sardonic style, and a recipient of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. Her other titles include A House and Its Head and Manservant and Maidservant. Sue Townsend is a novelist and playwright best known for the hugely popular Adrian Mole series.

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Pastors and Masters 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
gaskella on LibraryThing 7 months ago
I won this book from Librarything in their Early Reviewers draw, and it¿s a lovely little thing. Hesperus Press is another publisher whose raison d¿être is bringing back neglected works into print and their list sounds very interesting (Pushkin, Flaubert and Charles Lamb etc). Printed on quality off-white paper with super matt wraparound soft covers, this novella was a physical pleasure to read. The reading itself was a little more difficult.This was ICB¿s breakthrough novel after one previous effort, and at a mere 98 pages is a swift read. Published in 1925 at the age of 41, Pastors and Masters is set in a minor prep school of which Nicholas Herrick is the nominal headmaster. However apart from taking prayers in the morning he leaves everything to Mr Merry (who, gasp! is not a qualified teacher), plus Mrs Merry, Mr Burgess (who, phew! is qualified), and Matron Miss Basden. Herrick and his younger sister Emily, prefer more intellectual pursuits engaging his friends in debate, and bragging about the book he is writing ¿ will it ever get finished and be published? This is the basis of the plot, on which I¿ll expound no further to save the twist in tail for you.ICB¿s style though takes a bit of getting used to. There¿s little descriptive prose, it¿s mostly dialogue and that is really clipped, and the characters never shut up! They¿re constantly talking, mostly at each other, in engagements of verbal sparring, scoring points off each other. This was a group stuck in an old Victorian way of doing things, full of fake gentility. It was impossible to find a single likeable character who actually had anything interesting to say or did anything of merit whatsoever, something I suspect was a deliberate ploy of ICB.`How good we all are at talking without ever saying anything we think!¿ said Bumpus.`It is not always politic to say what we think,¿ said Miss Basden.`It is not so easy,¿ said Masson.`Some times I suppose it is right to say it, whether or not we like it, and whether or not it is liked, said Delia.`Yes, yes the thing to be done,¿ said Miss Lydia, sighing.`Oh, just possibly. Once or twice in a lifetime,¿ said Mr Bentley to his daughter.`Nearer once than twice,¿ said Bumpus.An interesting introduction to ICB¿s work, but just as I really got into it, it was over. Recommendations for a mature ICB to read some time in the future would be appreciated ¿ hang on a minute, didn¿t the Queen borrow one from the mobile library in The Uncommon Reader?
wandering_star on LibraryThing 7 months ago
How/why I acquired this: well, it was an Early Reviewers book, but I requested it because Compton-Burnett featured in The Uncommon Reader, which I read last year. A book by C-B (can't remember which one) is the first book borrowed by the Queen. She reads it to be polite, and finds it very dry. However, some time later, when she is more well-read, she picks up the same book by accident, and this time finds it very witty and amusing.Not a lot really happens in Pastors and Masters. There is one key event, but if I summarised it, it would not sound like enough to hang a whole book on. The focus is really on the characters - all of whom are intensely dislikeable, running the gamut from martyred and passive-aggressive to self-involved and downright bitchy. And that is where the humour lies - the book is told almost entirely in dialogue, so people condemn themselves out of their own mouths while they think they are putting others down.Now, because there are so many layers, and because many of the characters are self-consciously terribly clever, sometimes the utterances take a lot of puzzling out. So I would agree with Alan Bennett's categorisation. And apparently Compton-Burnett herself described her books as 'easy to put down'!That might sound as if I didn't enjoy this book. That's not actually true: and I will certainly keep it and read it again. But this is definitely a book you have to be in the right mood for. When I was, I found the book very sharp and witty. When I wasn't, I didn't have the patience to wonder over every line to figure out what was really being said, and it draaaagged.Recommended for: someone who is feeling cerebral, and wants something astringent.
LizzySiddal on LibraryThing 7 months ago
Don't whatever you do be fooled by the fact that this is composed entirely of dialogue. It is not an easy read but as ICB suggested herself, very easy to put down. A novella with a giant sized cast relatively speaking. First you have to work out who is who, who is doing what (actually not a lot other than putting each other down), and who is the most obnoxious. Quite tiresome. I couldn't have cared less.
MurphyTowers on LibraryThing 7 months ago
In many ways, this novella is more like a play than a work of prose fiction. For the most part, it is written almost entirely in dialogue, and the action occurs in a few almost claustrophobic locations: school dining room and family drawing rooms primarily. It is a very small and close world of an ineffectual school and those involved in its running (masters and pastors) with the addition of a family of two of the pupils and friends of the headmaster. None of the characters is particularly sympathetic: most are more or less responsible for the bleak atmosphere. The dialogue itself is incessant and wordy but strangely uncommunicative, with an off-side and out-of-reach quality, talking around issues instead of through them, similar to that associated with Henry James. The key moment of action, where two main characters discover they are both trying to pass off the same book typescript as their own work, reveals the lack of moral backbone behind this example of a British educational institution; the world here is little more than a sham, the people acting the parts expected of them.
devenish on LibraryThing 7 months ago
Being previously unfamiliar of the works of Ivy Compton-Burnett I began reading this book with some amazement. For a start it consists mainly of dialogue with little or no action in it at all. However once I got a little further into it,I did begin to enjoy it.The story concerns a group of people,including the headmaster of a small school and his wife together with members of his staff. Also a group of their friends and a the father of a pupil. All meet and talk about a variety of subjects. That is about it really! It is in the witty writing that the thing comes to life and becomes a quite enjoyable,if rather difficult,read.