Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead

Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead At the beginning of June the river floods ducks swim through the drawing room windows and Ebin Willoweed rows his daughters round the submerged garden The grandmother dresses in magenta for her seven

At the beginning of June the river floods, ducks swim through the drawing room windows and Ebin Willoweed rows his daughters round the submerged garden The grandmother dresses in magenta for her seventy first birthday whist drive and looks forward to the first prize of pate de foie gras Later Ives the gardener leads a morose procession up river, dragging her to a funeralAt the beginning of June the river floods, ducks swim through the drawing room windows and Ebin Willoweed rows his daughters round the submerged garden The grandmother dresses in magenta for her seventy first birthday whist drive and looks forward to the first prize of pate de foie gras Later Ives the gardener leads a morose procession up river, dragging her to a funeral in a black draped punt the miller goes mad and drowns himself and a cottage is set alight Villagers keep dying and at the house on the river plates are thrown across the luncheon table and a tortoise through a window The newspaper asks What will be smitten by this fatal madness next Originally published in 1954, this strange novel with its macabre humour, speaks with Barbara Comyns unique and magical voice.

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    142 Barbara Comyns
Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead

  1. Barbara Comyns Carr was educated mainly by governesses until she went to art schools in Stratford upon Avon and London Her father was a semi retired managing director of a Midland chemical firm She was one of six children and they lived in a house on the banks of the Avon in Warwickshire She started writing fiction at the age of ten and her first novel, Sisters by a River, was published in 1947 She also worked in an advertising agency, a typewriting bureau, dealt in old cars and antique furniture, bred poodles, converted and let flats, and exhibited pictures in The London Group She was married first in 1931, to an artist, and for the second time in 1945 With her second husband she lived in Spain for eighteen years.

532 Reply to “Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead”

  1. this book was a perfect book to read directly after prayer for the dying when i was reading the o nan, i kept thinking this is like an even sadder winesburg, ohio , even though that was a poor comparison but i still feel that way this one is closer to what an even depressing winesburg would be, because it is also funny, which is an element not to be found in the o nan but funny in the way that, as you are laughing, you are horrifiedere are several elements that, bizarrely, occur in both the o n [...]

  2. I recently purchased books from the Dorothy Project, and one of the books was this one I had never heard of the author or the book So there it was, on my shelf, and then a character in another book I just finished, Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller, mentions the book in passing It was a clear sign that I should read this next.This is a weird and disturbing book in a good way the town seems to take floods, epidemics, and dead animals and people in stride The baker s wife is running around with ot [...]

  3. First caught my eye via the incredible title, before I realized I d been meaning to read this for a while And it s great, the best thing I ve read this month, probably Comyns shares certain peculiarities of tone, observation, and conviction, perhaps, with interwar favorites Jane Bowles and Denton Welch, but seems initially to be taking things into much phantasmagorical territory Initially we have the macabre pastoral British landscape, a flood, unexplained public suicides, creeping madness, but [...]

  4. This novel probably sounds macabre than it reads It opens with a disastrous flood and takes place in a small English village beset by a mysterious epidemic of suicides But once you get past the gruesome knife wounds and floating animal corpses, it s a surprisingly wry and often gentle book The story circles around several children growing up in a beatific countryside and the turns their lives take during these strange events Comyns strikes a tone that s between all the expected registers normal [...]

  5. As soon as the funeral was over, and before the mourners had hardly left, the uninvited surged into the churchyard to watch the gravedigger fill the grave with clods of clay so recently removed and to examine the dying wreaths They were accompanied by many dogs Grandmother Willoweed commissions a boat to transport her to the funeral of the summer The rest are a bunch of Johnny come latelys The doctor s wife finally kicked it after extending her wifely presence beyond the sick room I m sure Grand [...]

  6. A perfect little Hallowe en treat for gruesome children It reminded me strangely of The Man Who Loved Children twisted family dynamics are pitched at you and the author moves on, leaving a sickening afterimage to burn into your eyeballs Dark genius at work in fairy tale land Can you say macabre

  7. 3.5 An extremely entertaining, weird and funny story about a family that doesn t get along, a tragedy within that same community and what happens in the aftermath of said tragedy Comyns was a writer with a hugely imaginative mind and this kept me reading without boredom Generally, when there is a lot of death and grief I feel a loneliness, a darkness inside She finds a way to make the act of dying not sad, but a part of the actual entertainment.Recommended for people who don t take life seriousl [...]

  8. Other reviewers have compared Barbara Comyns to Shirley Jackson, and they re right to do so Both authors have a way of describing awful situations and people with detached, pinpoint precision.The Willoweed family, living in a small English village in 1911, ruled by the tyrannical and cruel Grandmother Willoweed, are beset first by flood and then by an epidemic Who is changed, who is dead and who escapes has nothing to do with who is good and who is bad I guess the theme of this story is that it [...]

  9. Listing this book on my humor and literary horror shelves makes me all warm and fuzzy inside Yet as a word of warning, the humor is very dark, satirical at times, with the entire book meeting in the middle between humor and horror This is one of my flirt finds There is a young woman who works in the local used book store and I have been lucky enough on than one ooccasion to approach the register when she is busy flirting with a customer She tells me to pay some miniscule amount and to not worry [...]

  10. Barbara Comyns is absolutely one of my new favorite writers Her work is so strange, so precise, so ever so slightly gruesome Reading Comyns is a kind of submersion like lifting your feet from the lake bottom and drifting like closing your eyes against a grey sky as the water rises around you, lifting your hair, filling your ears, slipping overhead until everything around you is blurred and green A world recognizable but barely.

  11. This book belongs on the shelf next to Let s Murder Uncle, I Capture the Castle, and of course, that famous gem of odd goings on in the British countryside, Cold Comfort Farm However, be aware that Comyns tragicomic little gem is dipped in a blacker hue than any of the previously mentioned books Originally banned in Ireland for it s singularly bleak vision, Who was Changed begins with a flood, goes on to a mysterious string of violent deaths brought on by good intentions possibly the only good i [...]

  12. A dreamy grotesque summertime tale set in a village of England s West Midlands in the 1880s The village is afflicted first with a flood and then a terrible epidemic, and through it all the characters the strange Willoweed family, in particular float like obsessed apparitions or dangerous sprites, distending the fabric of their community with the momentum of obscure, private agendas.Comyns limpid, fluid narrative voice is a true marvel, covering a tremendous amount of ground and very quickly in t [...]

  13. I love weird English tales about rural village life Maybe because it s what I ve descended from or maybe because it doesn t exist the way it used to and I have some kind of weird nostalgia for a kind of simplicity that shuns modern conveniences associated with efficiency and cleanlinessIt s funny that this was a banned book Was it the cat with it s eyeball popped out of the socket or the butcher who sliced his own neck in the shape of a smile or the charred man who crawled from his burning cotta [...]

  14. The setting is the village of Warickshire around the turn of the century When the novel opens, there has been a flood The ground floor of the Willoweed home has filled with water and ducks swim through the windows For the Willoweed children the house and grounds have become an aquatic playground, although the bloated dead animals strike a melancholy note Their father finds the flood another ordeal to be endured For their grandmother, in whose house they live, the flood is an inconvenience that i [...]

  15. I wish I could have kept reading this book for several weeks, but it s such a quick read I had to work hard to make it last longer than a single afternoon I read The Vet s Daughter a year ago, and came across this new printing of Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead while browsing the Dorothy catalogue I love the sweeping gore, and the gleeful way her characters react to tragedy Thanks to the Dorothy Project, this is also a book that feels good in your hands, the cover has a really nice matte feel a [...]

  16. Wow a deft, strange, singular, disturbing little book from a midcentury writer who deserves to be much better known Horrifying sequence of events befalls an idyllic English village, described in language that is lithe and darkly funny, evoking the vertiginous emotions of childhood Grandma Willoweed is unforgettable Barbara Comyns is an original, brutally clear writer I will be reading The Skin Chairs and The Vet s Daughter soon.

  17. Morbid Adorable.Reads like a children s book with a horror plot I m not sure what it means Is it supposed to be symbolic or not I first read this when I was 17 I found the Virago copy in a knock off bin in a mall bookstore Drawn to the title It was 1993 This novel was formative for me, I loved it Probably than I do now.

  18. Barbara Comyns has a fine imagination I enjoyed this book, which was very warm and full of humor and quirks, despite the gruesome deaths.

  19. 4 5 A paradoxical sense of a world that might want to embrace you lovingly unless instead it wants to smother you The ducks swam through the drawing room windows The weight of the water had forced the windows open so the ducks swam in Round the room they sailed quacking their approval then they sailed out again to explore the wonderful new world that had come in the nightWhat a curious little book this was My second read from The Dorothy Project first being Vertigo by Joanna Walsh , Who Was Chan [...]

  20. Published in 1954, this is like a cozy English village novelette gone terribly wrong Tyrannical, morbid grandma abuses everyone and delights in the deaths and tragedies of others, dad is too self involved to care about anyone, the kids are left to their own devices And then people in the village begin going mad and killing themselves one by one Who will be next A bit like Cold Comfort Farm, but lyrically written and not as funny The book opens with a flood The ducks swam through the drawing roo [...]

  21. This is an odd, disquieting, and hard to pin down little novel Comyns manages to make strengths of qualities that are often considered flaws The tone varies substantially, sometimes within the span of a single page or less A vein of mildly satirical comedy of manners runs through it, but it also encompasses an eerie streak not far removed from horror I was reminded a bit of Robert Aickman, although Comyns is both naturalistic and morbid The narrative voice flits among the characters like a spo [...]

  22. 4.5 stars Loved this book Dark, macabre, funny, sad The Willoweed family, an aristocratic family on the decline, must deal with first a flood, and then a mysterious plague of madness that sweeps through the village Both the events and their consequences change the family forever This would have been a single sitting read, but I didn t have the luxury of a couple continuous hours to spare I think my only real problem with the book was that the ending felt a bit rushed and unsatisfactory after suc [...]

  23. The title of this book is what grabbed me I guess I don t give myself enough credit because I never think that I ll be able to find humor in a book written in the 1950s, let alone when the story itself takes place decades earlier, but I found the sass and comedy to be similar to that of Cousin Violet on Downton Abbey is interesting reading about a town so stricken with death and destruction written in such a blas tone Perhaps that s why this book was banned in the town in which the story takes p [...]

  24. dead animals floating over the rose bushes a butcher slices open his own throat a tyrannical grandmother plague ominous cows fire and murder getting in the family way swanky new yellow automobiles punting up the river funerals a sleepy english countryside village reveals its dark, bloodstained heart.

  25. Astonishing, disturbing, darkly comic, this is one of Comyns best, with a scope that ranges imaginatively and morally well beyond the insular English village it depicts, taking in all of the great themes but with the lightest hand imaginable there is only one Barbara Comyns, and I am so thankful to have finally discovered her work.

  26. a classic in the British bizarro genre as Lucy Ellmann is so admirably continuing this is a hilarious, hysterical, and ultimately redeeming story of a bucolic Warwickshire village gone mad, or madder than usual.

  27. An odd book, commendably short and very well written, felt a bit old fashioned even for it s time 1954 I guess it is Cold Comfort Farm and Gormenghast combined.

  28. Do you ever choose books for their titles Apparently I like the really strange and wordy ones, since I pick things like The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window Disappeared, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, and The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles when left to my own devices Even if you know nothing else about the book, how do you pass up a great title like that A small English village is struck first by a flood and then by a plagu [...]

  29. A sweetly horrific nightmare of a tale And the baby piglet all pink and dead Where CAN one find prose like that Complete with an appalling grandmother a la a grotesque Shirley Jackson s Mrs Halloran from The Sundial Who Was Changed could be a Stefan Kiesbye s Your House Is On Fire, Your Children All Gone, lite Very lite Kiesbye s ducks would not be quacking their approval as they floated and in the flood, but his hens might commit suicide by dropping falling off their perches into the muck below [...]

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