Books: Futures in the Past

Two WORLDS AND THEIR WAYS (311 pp.) —I. Compton-Burnett—Knopf ($3.50).

The novels of Britain's Ivy Compton-Burnett have received so much highbrow adulation that there is a growing suspicion that they must be unreadable. The suspicion has some foundation: when Elizabeth Bowen says that "Miss Compton-Burnett is always fundamentally truthful at the expense of realism," she is simply saying that many readers will never have the vaguest notion of what Compton-Burnett is being so truthful about.

The reason for this is that in all her twelve novels, Ivy Compton-Burnett has never tried to tell a convincing story. With her, any old melodrama (even including...

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