Prudence – Who felt the evil of Pen Farm embrace her – yet remained bound to a man who could never return her love…
Laura – Beautiful and wilful – whose desire for John Hardacre made her leave the glitter of London for the isolation and lonely terror of Pen Farm…
Violet – Sensuous and provocative who offered first her body and then her soul to possess the master of Pen Farm…
In the ominous silence of the house lay a hidden horror that would soon erupt – which one of the three women would survive the emotional holocaust?
Prudence? Laura? Violet?
An Ace Star Book. Written by Jane Blackmore. Copyright 1952.
Three women. One man. Sowing the seeds of sexual frustration on an isolated farmhouse where there is not much else to do but count chickens and watch the corn grow.
Welcome to Pen Farm, a hormonal hot-bed of lust and jealousy, home to a pregnant wife who hates her life, a governess desperate to get pregnant and a slatternly milkmaid who is just, well, desperate. Poor John Hardacre. I was feeling genuinely sorry for the bloke by page 15. Of course, I soon figured he would end up happy ever after with the goody two-shoes governess, but it was enjoyable reading how he got there.
This book’s blend of witchy mysticism and earthy, farmyard fecundity reminded me a bit of the Nick Roeg film Puffball (based on the book by Fay Wheldon). I wouldn’t describe the setting nor the story as a gothic romance but I did like the otherworldy, trippy quality threaded throughout Jane Blackmore’s prose – Pen Farm is a place where even something as mundane as frying an egg becomes an exercise in mind-altering metaphysicality:
“The egg fell sizzling, into the fat. She watched the transparency coagulate and tried to think what she should say to him but there seemed to be a heaviness inside her head. She could neither think nor feel. It was as if she were halfway under anaesthetic in that twilight stage where objects take an unexpected vividness, where the whole of existence focuses into a single point.
It was like that now with the egg. The golden globule was huge and magnetic. She knew that the room was around her. That ahead of her waited – decision. But no, in this fateful moment, everything was drawing together, rushing in headlong suction down into the heart of an egg. Perhaps this was how the unborn infant felt in the moment of birth. This aching plunging into space – this unbearable feeling of change.”
Three stars out of five stars with bonus points for use of the word empurpled.