Date of publication
Hodder & Stoughton
Dedicated to M. P. P. [Margaret Posthuma] and, in spite of air raids, to the pleasant memory of our winter in London, 1917-18
Dawson-Scott, C. A., ‘Two Women Novelists’, The Bookman; Jul 1919; 56, 334
Consequences tells the story of Alexandra Clare, always known as Alex. Alex is the eldest child of Sir Francis and Lady Isabel Clare, a late-Victorian upper-class couple who live in Bayswater in London; Sir Francis is Catholic and the children are being raised, rather superficially, in that faith. At the start of the book, Alex initiates a game in which her sister Barbara falls and seriously injures her back; Alex is blamed for the accident and her parents send her to a convent in Belgium. At school she develops a passion for Queenie Torrance, who tolerates Alex’s affection for her. Intimate friendships are discouraged at the convent; Alex is chastised for this in front of the whole school. After school Alex is launched into London society; she is pretty and well-dressed, but not very attractive to men, and when in her second season she becomes engaged to Noel Cardew her family is relieved. However, Alex quickly realises that she is not in love with Noel, nor he with her, and breaks off the engagement. Disenchanted with her society life, Alex becomes acquainted with Mother Gertrude, the superior of a convent near her house. Mother Gertrude suggests that Alex might find that the life of a nun would suit her. Increasingly unhappy at home, and with a growing love for Mother Gertrude, Alex leaves her family after a serious argument over her future, and goes to live at the convent. The novel rejoins Alex eight years later, a professed nun still waiting for the emotional fulfilment that she has always longed for, and increasingly exhausted by the physically rigorous life. Mother Gertrude is now Assistant Superior, and Alex’s love for her is undimmed; when she hears that Mother Gertrude is to be transferred to a new convent in South America, she breaks down and determines to leave, eventually returning to London. Her parents are now dead, Barbara is an impoverished widow, and her brother Cedric is living in the family home with his wife Violet and their baby; he also provides a home to their younger adult siblings Archie and Pamela. Money difficulties come to the fore: Alex’s father divided her inheritance between her sisters. Alex cannot support herself on the tiny income left to her, Barbara is unwilling to share her home with her, and Alex realises that Violet’s kindness to her is due to her love for Cedric. Alex determines to find work and her own home, and arranges to rent a room in a cheap part of London. She stays on in Cedric’s house while the family is away; when the convent sends her a bill for her expenses, she cashes a cheque left with her by Cedric for the servants’ wages in order to pay this, before moving out. Cedric discovers the servants have not been paid, and returns to confront Alex, denouncing her behaviour as criminal. Alex becomes convinced that she must end her own life, and one evening she goes to Hampstead Heath, fills her pockets with stones, and walks into a deep pond.
Catholicism family conflict lesbianism novel nuns religion