Ivy Compton-Burnett

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Ivy Compton-Burnett (pronounced 'Cumpton-Burnit', 5 June 1884 – 27 August 1969) was an English novelist (published in the original hardbacks as 'I. Compton-Burnett'). Her work is propelled by almost perpetual dialogue, and concentrates on family (and sometimes school) life in roughly the Edwardian era. Many of her novels turn on unexpected crimes or misdemeanours that are uncovered, such as illegitimacy and even murder, though her books have no detectives.

Among her themes are money, power, ageing and inheritance. Incest is revealed to have taken place, and she was one of the first novelists to deal with homosexuality.

There is also a pronounced upstairs-downstairs angle, with powerful butlers and cooks lording it over maids and servant boys; and impoverished governesses. This reflects the world of Ivy's youth in Hove, to the west of Brighton, on the southern English coast.

The daughter of a homeopath, Compton-Burnett had a degree in Classics from Holloway, London University, and it shows in her dialogue, which is compressed, witty, and at times oratorical.