"Michy" wrote:Perhaps that's why PG stated in her foreward that "modern readers" would find a troubling element in Jenny's relationship with her father; she's acknowledging, at least to some degree, that the discomfort may be due in part to different social customs in our modern times. However, she does state right out that there is an incestuous tone to their relationship, and she goes on to cite several examples, all of which are valid and well-stated. She concludes that the reader's discomfort comes from the fact that this aspect of Jenny's relationship with her father is only partially developed and never fully explained or resolved.
But different social norms notwithstanding, I still agree with her assessment because of the reaction of the priest who was close to Jenny and her father (his name is Father Brown). I actually pulled my copy off the shelf and took another look at the passage I referred to in my earlier post. When Jenny's father is upset about her immigration to America and begging her not to go, Father Brown tells him, "It is better for everyone, and I have seen that for you both there's danger in your feelings for the girl." To me, this shows that it's not just a modern reader's interpretation of social behavior that is no longer an acceptable norm, but this is Seton herself implying that there was something a little more than "fatherly affection" in Charles' feelings for his daughter.
At any rate, I don't feel that these particular comments of PG's were slanderous or in any way demeaning of Seton's work; she was validly pointing out a significant aspect of the plot of Devil Water that might cause trouble for some readers. I happen to agree with her assessment, although I realize everyone doesn't.
Is it possible that the priest is misinterpreting the closeness of the relationship between father and daughter? Or even possibly Anya Seton herself not quite realising how this incident would be interpreted? Most people from "normal" family backgrounds back in the early 60s were remarkably innocent and would possibly never have heard of incest as such. As I say it's years since I read the book and I would need to read it again to get a sense of this passage. But I fail to understand why Anya Seton would deliberately attempt to ruin a good story by introducing a strictly taboo subject to a 1962 readership, most of whom would have been outraged at the thought of incest. But if you are correct and the possibility of an unnatural relationship was hinted at ,then that's another good book ruined forever for a lot of people. However I think, even today, most of us could accept incest in a novel involving unsympathetic characters like Caligula or Nero but not involving characters where the author is inviting us to become emotionally involved in their lives as in this novel.Having read most of her other books in which she has never attempted anything like this I can't see why Anya Seton would suddenly deliberately seek in Devil Water to offend or trick her readership.I think the priest was probably a fool.