Eleanor and Fulbert Sullivan live, with their nine children ranging from nursery to university age, in a huge country house belonging to Fulbert’s parents, Sir Jesse and Lady Regan. Sir Jesse sends Fulbert, his only son, on a business mission to South America. News comes of Fulbert’s death, and his executor, Ridley Cranmer, plans an impulsive marriage to Eleanor… but is Fulbert really dead? And what is the mystery surrounding the parentage of the three strange Marlowes living in genteel penury on the fringe of the great estate?
Parents and Children is less savage in theme than some of Ivy Compton-Burnett’s fiction. With its richly funny scenes with the children and happily resolved ending, it makes a perfect introduction to this distinguished author’s highly individual world – a closed world of intense relationships within late Victorian upper-class families, a world in which the normally unspoken is stated and the unthinkable enacted, with dark revelations blandly emerging from formal speeches of great subtlety.