Elizabeth Jane Howard (1923-2014) published her second novel ‘The Long View’ in 1956.
It tells the story of a middle class marriage in five episodes, arranged in reverse chronological order.
We first encounter heroine Antonia Fleming in 1950, when her coercive husband Conrad has become almost completely detached.
We trace their story back, through infidelities, to their honeymoon and, on the final page, to the moment they first meet at a party in the winter of 1926.
Howard comes very close to pulling off this technical feat, but, stylistically, her writing is variable; some of the dialogue can be stodgy and stilted. She has not quite mastered her art.
The final episode is more lyrical, though, and I found that completely captivating. Few writers have written better.
There are few likeable characters here: Howard’s world is controlled by knowing, cynical men and women who dominate, manipulate and deceive, preying on the naive vulnerability of their peers.