Brat Farrar

  IMG_0001 (Large) Brat Farrar was published by the Folio Society in 2010, so this is the most recent book I've looked at.  I'll slip a few post 20th century books in from time to time. This book was originally published in 1949 so it does at least have that in common with some of the early Folio Society books (mind you, still several 1948 books to get through before I take on the '49ers)

The Book

It is bound in a purple coloured cloth and blocked with the design shown left. Perhaps the colours were intended to represent the Ashby colours (Primrose and Violet). It is illustrated by A. Richard Allen. There are 8 full page colour illustrations. There is a very thoughtful introduction by Ruth Rendell.

The Story

Brat, who has a striking resemblance to men of the Ashby family, has a chance meeting with a connection to the family. He is persuaded to impersonate Patrick Ashby, the elder twin of Simon Ashby, who was thought to have committed suicide eight years previously, and whose body was never found. Simon is set to inherit the family estate when he turns twenty one as both parents died in a aeroplane crash when he and his twin Patrick were young. If Patrick is still alive then he collects the inheritance, so the imposter and his chance aquaintance (through regular payments) stand a lot to gain.  Brat becomes well coached in the family lore and is able to convince the family that he really is Patrick and that he didn't commit suicide, but ran away to America where he learnt horsemanship. Horses and horsemanship were the Ashby family trade and helped him to be accepted, and Brat finds himself liking Bee, his 'aunt' and Eleanor, his 'sister'.

Simon never warms to him and never believes that Brat is really Patrick. Brat starts to wonder why this may be. One of the possibilities he considers is that Simon really knows that Patrick is dead because he was killed by Simon. To look into this further he examines  old newspaper articles, the records of the inquest and has converstions with people who knew Simon back then.

When sharing a room with Simon at a regional fair,  Simon admits to the murder, but now the two are bound in an uneasy arrangement. Neither can reveal the truth without implicating himself in a crime. Brat cannot live with that knowledge and decides to make a brest of things. He works out that Simon must have got rid of Patrick at a disused quarry. In the dead of night he goes there to try and locate some evidence. Simon is there and they struggle. Simon dies and Brat is severely injured. Some evidence is found, and then goes  "missing".

Later Brat is found to be an illegimate son of a wayward Ashby, and then he and Eleanor consumate the love they thought they couldn't share.

One of the things I like about this book is that it is crime fiction without a detective, where the criminal (the imposter who defrauds the family), "investigates" a deeper and darker crime within the family.


The Author

Josephine Tey was the pseudonym adopted by Elizabeth Mackintosh (1896 – 1952).  She wrote several crime novels and plays, often with an historical theme. The Folio Society has also published The Franchise Affair which I intend to read some day.

The Illustrations

Here's a little blog piece by the illustrator, A. Richard Allen,  about the roughs and the final illustrations. Well worth a read (and all the illustrations are shown) about the process of getting the call from the Folio Society and providing the work.

Are there any "missing" illustrations? I would have liked to have seen an illustration of the scene in Simon's bedroom where Brat casually relates the childhood tale of the little horse on the end of the bed and sees Simon's shocked face in the mirror. It would have been a wonderful opportunity to show how they looked alike but different along with a "tipping point" in the plot.  Another one would have been at the hotel at the fair where Brat and Simon confront each other with their suspicions.  I guess I like illustrations which show tension. The last one with Brat grimly hanging on at the edge of the quarry, with Simon's knife glistening in the darkness is probably my favorite.

Next book

Most likely Mademoiselle de Maupin (published 1948), but you never know




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