Gate of Angels
by Penelope Fitzgerald
1990 / 178 pages
rating – 9
I forgot a bunch so I had to reread – I knew what was going on and what was coming up, so it was deeper than a recollection memory. But I focused more on the themes this time – the first time just trying to get ahold of the plot and characters.
I like the setting, pre-WWI in Cambridge, and the main characters, Fred Fairly and Daisy Saunders. I enjoyed the plot of how those two finally got together although there were obstacles.
On second reading I was more interested in the themes of religion vs science in the earl 20th century when invisible forces were wondered about, atoms and ghosts and so on. Also of note is the subtle feminist tone which pervades parts of the book.
The book opens with confusion of a sudden very strong storm and a collision between a cart and several bicycles. Fred and Daisy are among the victims – they are taken to a nearby home and put in bed together as Daisy is wearing a ring.
Young Fred Fairly is hired at the College of Angels, a very small branch of Cambridge, where science is supreme and no ties are allowed with women. When he signs up this is no problem – there are no women in Fred’s moderately middle class, academic oriented life.
Meanwhile young Daisy Saunders, the only child of a widowed mother, is working at a department store which really isn’t to her liking. She’s not destitute but she’s certainly poor. When mom dies Daisy opts to go into nursing and lands a job in London. Daisy has a far more difficult life than Fred. Fitzgerald is pointing at feminist issues without claiming them – the distinctions so subtle as to fit into the setting but when you focus on that aspect of the book they are readily apparent.
The plot follows the two young people as they draw further from each other and the main theme is that it’s going to have to be chance even if young Fred is suddenly smitten. – There is a ghost story involved and other kind of mysterious events – because – ta-da – there are things in this world which science cannot explain.
I feel like rereading The Blue Flower or Fitzgerald’s biography by Hermoine Lee.