Two years after the war, the heroine of Caroline Blackwood's partially autobiographical novel is sent to convalesce from a minor operation at her Great Granny Webster's house in Brighton. But the only sea air she experiences are the drafts that creep into the house where she is required to sit quietly with only Richards, the tyrannized maid, and iron-willed, humourless Great Granny Webster for company. As for the rest of the family, her dashing father Ivor is dead in a jungle grave in Burma, mad Grandmother Dunmartin tried to kill her own grandson at his christening, long-suffering Grandfather Dunmartin allowed his estate to fall into ruin while he pretended his wife was sane enough to run it, and even glamorous Aunt Lavinia-though light-hearted-is determinedly suicidal. The laconic tone in which this motley cast of characters is described only adds to the horror-and the hilarity.
"Shocking, brilliant, and wickedly funny, Great Granny Webster is Caroline Blackwood's best book. In the monstrous old dowager of Hove, and the ruling class she represents, Blackwood found a subject grandly commensurate with her own extraordinary style of aghast relish." -- Jonathan Raban
"None of us will forget Caroline Blackwood's Great Granny Webster, a matter-of-fact account--and all the grimmer for this matter-of-factness--of the temperamental and circumstantial misfortunes of an Ulster family. Although it's deceptively concise, it evokes the spirits of no less than four ages--Victorian, Edwardian, pre- and postwar--in exact and resonant prose...A unique literary experience." -- Philip Larkin
"Blackwood loves monsters. No character in modern literature is more obdurately monstrous than Great Granny Webster. An Edwardian relic, this utterly pleasureless, stingy, censorious, ossified banshee, forever ensconced in her painfully stiff chair before a fireplace laid but never lit, is the stuffed and essentially powerless dragon of a musty castle, the remnant of hidebound and pointless traditional values, someone who has never in her life given anyone a reason to like her." -- Gary Indiana, Bookforum
"Great Granny Webster feels more like a memoir than a novel...but it is as gripping as a whodunit. There are passages like passages in a strange house: when they turn a corner, something unexpectedly shocking comes into sight. It is also very funny, and the characters are vividly eccentric--or just plain vivid: Blackwood's writing never merely trundles along." -- Gabriele Annan, The Times Literary Supplement