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At the centre of this novel stands Harriet Haslam, the epitome of the maternal power figure, whose genuine but overpowering love dominates the novel and whose self-knowledge drives her into insanity. Even after her death Harriet continues to dominate. Surrounding this central figure are a host of marvelously realised characters - Sir Geoffrey Haslam, Harriet's husband, an innocent self-deluder; Dominic Spong, a hypocrite whose platitudes do not quite conceal his powerful self-interest; Agatha Calkin whose benevolent maternalism nearly hides the greediest of drives towards power; Lady Hardistry, the most outrageously witty of all sophisticates; Camilla Christy, a loose woman, dazzling, charming, and corrupt. Unlike Harriet Haslam, who will not spare herself the truth, the others are happier with their lies and can never achieve Harriet's grandeur.

Compton-Burnett was encouraged by her liberal and unorthodox father, homeopath Dr Burnett, to prepare to read classics at London university (neither Oxford nor Cambridge gave degrees to women at this time). She had dearly loved her father, who died without warning from a heart attack in 1901 when she was sixteen. Her closest brother died three years later, and Ivy Compton-Burnett went on to lose three more of her younger siblings and her mother by the time she was 35, something she could hardly bear to speak about, but constantly explored in her novels. Compton-Burnett published twenty novels, the first while she was in her twenties, in 1911. However, the first of her works to use her mature and startlingly original style was published when she was forty, in 1925. Compton-Burnett's fiction deals with domestic situations in large households which, to all intents and purposes, invariably seem Edwardian. She was named a Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1967.

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Used availability for Ivy Compton-Burnett's Men and Wives

Hardback Editions

March 2000 : UK Hardback

Title: Men and Wives (Serendipity)
Author(s): Ivy Compton-Burnett
ISBN: 0-7531-6170-2 / 978-0-7531-6170-8 (UK edition)
Publisher: ISIS Large Print Books
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


August 1972 : UK Hardback

Title: Men and Wives
Author(s): Ivy Compton-Burnett
ISBN: 0-575-01581-0 / 978-0-575-01581-4 (UK edition)
Publisher: Littlehampton Book Services Ltd
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


July 1966 : UK Hardback
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Title: Men and Wives
Author(s): Ivy Compton-Burnett
ISBN: 0-575-01271-4 / 978-0-575-01271-4 (UK edition)
Publisher: Littlehampton Book Services Ltd
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


Paperback Editions

September 2012 : UK Paperback
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Title: Men and Wives (Bloomsbury Reader)
Author(s): Ivy Compton-Burnett
ISBN: 1-4482-0094-6 / 978-1-4482-0094-8 (UK edition)
Publisher: Bloomsbury Reader
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


January 2001 : UK Paperback
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Title: Men and Wives
Author(s): Ivy Compton-Burnett
ISBN: 0-7531-6203-2 / 978-0-7531-6203-3 (UK edition)
Publisher: ISIS Publishing
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


October 1984 : USA Paperback
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Title: Men and Wives
Author(s): Ivy Compton-Burnett
ISBN: 0-8052-8215-7 / 978-0-8052-8215-3 (USA edition)
Publisher: Schocken Books
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


February 1984 : UK Paperback
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Title: Men and Wives
Author(s): Ivy Compton-Burnett
ISBN: 0-85031-576-X / 978-0-85031-576-9 (UK edition)
Publisher: Allison & Busby
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


Audio Editions

July 2016 : MP3 CD
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Title: Men and Wives
Author(s): Ivy Compton-Burnett
ISBN: 1-5318-4219-4 / 978-1-5318-4219-2
Publisher: Audible Studios on Brilliance Audio
Availability: Amazon   Amazon CA   


May 2013 : USA Audio edition
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Title: Men and Wives
Author(s): Ivy Compton-Burnett
Publisher: Audible Studios
Availability: Amazon   


May 2013 : Canada Audio edition
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Title: Men and Wives
Author(s): Ivy Compton-Burnett
Publisher: Audible Studios
Availability: Amazon CA   


May 2013 : UK Audio edition
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Title: Men and Wives
Author(s): Ivy Compton-Burnett
Publisher: Audible Studios
Availability: Amazon UK   


Kindle Editions

September 2011 : USA, Canada, UK Kindle edition
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Title: Men and Wives (Bloomsbury Reader)
Author(s): Ivy Compton-Burnett
Publisher: Bloomsbury Reader
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA