VERA: A Brief Analysis

He rushed her off her feet, led her “down the garden path,” and tried to keep her under lock and key like the books he had purchased but never read.

She trusted him with sweet acquiescence, an almost holy thing based on mutual grief and a need to be taken care of by a father figure once more, thus allowing herself to be swept along to the altar by his prearranged schedule as stage manager of wedding, honeymoon, life itself.

He tried to own her, body and mind and soul, with no independent thought in a life contrived for appearances’ sake, hours regulated by a gong – a cross school boy being rude, with power to control while professing undying love for his “doll” wife.

And therein lay the crux of the matter: there was only one way of looking at a thing – his way. He forced her to assume the role of the pretty and irresponsible little woman in order to flatter him, reminiscent of Torvald and Nora in Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. Nora does escape in the end by running away, just as Vera had by jumping out of her sitting room window. Can Vera’s successor, Lucy, even recognize the similarities in their situations?

Last week, I promised to write about Elizabeth von Arnim’s Vera, fully expecting the novel to be full of garden references as her other three books I had read this spring. However, this one has so few that I had to read it a second time and take notes. Here is what I found:

Garden at Cornwall cottage

Fringes of trees hid the cottage from a dusty road. The gate faced the sea glittering in sunlight. The little garden featured a huge mass of fuchsia bushes. A seat, probably a bench as two people could sit on it, stood under a mulberry tree where several early scenes take place in the fresh air of August and September.

Image result for Cornwall cottage garden

Garden references in London

River at Hampton Court and Palace gardens are mentioned in terse conversation with no descriptions given.

Related image

Garden at The Willows

Flooding from heavy rains turned the entrance roads to oozing black mud. Fringes of willows stand in the middle of meadows, seen from the muddy road. A variety of handsome shrubs encircled the house, down to a flowing river in the distance:

  1. Laurustinus and laurels (bays?) surrounded the house.
  2. Lawns with the sweet April smell of cut grass swept down from the house to a river flowing in the distance.
  3. A huge birthday bouquet of yellow Kingcups graced the dining table, and then was moved to the library.
  4. Wildflowers grew along the river sliding past the garden.
  5. A flagstone terrace lay between the river and the library side of the house.
  6. The scene in Vera’s painting evoked Tuscany, a walled garden with an open door leading to a distant vista, suggesting escape.

Related image

Descriptions of room interiors give color to the story, balancing the dearth of garden scenes. Other than the soft glow of a rare fire in the library and only once in the sitting room, the only interior light comes from bald electric lights so bright that one wishes one had worn a hat!

Image result for bouquet of kingcups

Stock Photo – 86374329




Just short of fifty years of holy matrimony, I am blessed to be a mother of two and grandmother of seven. Much of my writing speaks to the culture and tradition of the Deep South, where I spent the first thirty-five years of my life before relocating to the Pacific Northwest. As a poet and essayist, I’ve published both online and in print media. In mid-February 2019, I launched Roses in the Rain: A Daughter's Story, following a successful couple years of Invitation to the Garden, both on Watch for upcoming installments to the memoir blog every Tuesday. The garden posts follow on Friday/Saturday. I look forward to hearing from you all!

10 thoughts on “VERA: A Brief Analysis”

    1. She seems to have spent much of her time in her upstairs sitting room, dreaming of escape. Note the one painting hanging on her wall, a scene depicting a vista in Tuscany as though longing to escape there. Lucy, the second wife, obviously hasn’t reached that point yet but will soon enough.


  1. I realized last week that I had already read Elizabeth and her German Garden, when I started to re-read it, it seemed really familiar, so I must have read a library copy a few years ago before I bought my more recent copy! It is a good read, but I have so many other books to read too!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s