The novel is settled in the fictional town of Levenford and it tells the story of a family, whose
members are oppressed and submitted by Mr Brodie, the householder.
The characters are well described and Cronin is able to combine their physical aspect with their psychological behavior.
The environment where the story is settled reflects the darkness of the house where the Brodie family live.
The house gives the reader a feeling of consternation; it seems more fitted for a prison than a home.
Here we know the life of Mary, Matt, Nessie their mother and grandmother.
Mary, who was about twenty years old, asked her mother to be wrapped in the mantle of her protection and shielded from the arrows of misfortune!
But her mother was unstable as water, and as shallow, she reflects merely the omnipresent shadow of another stronger than herself.
She was, of course, a Christian woman, with all the respectable convictions which this implied, but she could no more support her daughter in that crisis of her life.
She was continually in fear that Mary might be secretly contemplating some discreditable step which would arouse Brodie's ungovernable fury.
Mr Brodie was driving them all into some disaster. He kept them apart from people.
They had no friends. Mary had never had a chance like anybody else; she had been so shut off from everything.
She felt broken to pieces and hopeless when her father sent her away because she was going
to have a child from and a young man, Denis.
Denis was considered by Brodie not good enough for him and her daughter.
Mary had dragged his name into the mire.
She was now no daughter of him. He would cast her from him as unclean and he pushed her, with a violent, final thrust.
She had been cast out shamefully, but she was alive; she had left for ever a home which had become lately a hated prison; and now she plucked together her shattered forces and bravely fixed her mind upon the future.
Mary was an independent girl; she took charity from nobody and she worked for her living first.
On the contrary, Nessie was Mr Brodie's favorite daughter: she was twelve years old and she was the central figure of all his mental pictures.
Nessie must have her chance, he said: she was the cleverest scholar in the Academy.
He treated her so peculiarly, not unkindly, but forcing her so unreasonably to work at her lessons, to study all the time, not only at school, but the whole long evening and every evening.
She was shut up by herself and made to 'stick in' as he called it, so that she would win the Latta Bursary.
He had set his mind on that. He drove and drove at her and she was so fragile.
None of the other girls played with her and hardly spoke to her.
Since her mother died, everything was wrong: she
had been as miserable as could be and she hadn't had a soul to speak to about it.
Her father was different too.
She wished he would have left her alone, she didn't feel well in herself. She had always a headache!
What was he going to do with her after she would win the Latta ?
She wished she had somebody to put in a word for her. She was so downright wretched about it and about everything else and she wished sometimes she had never been born!
Also her brother Matt was leaving for a far distant land, so she realized she would have been left in a solitary, unprotected state to face the dreadful unhappiness of her present existence in the home.
Matthew would have gone as Mary had gone. Mary! She had thought so much of her lately that she longed now for the comfort of her sister's arm around her, for the solace of her quiet smile, the sustaining courage that lay within her steady eyes. She needed someone to whom she might unburden her weary mind, in whom she could confide her sorrows, and the thought of her sister's tranquil fortitude drew her.
Only her sister Mary could help her and when she came back to that cursed house, she hardly recognized her father.
Could that be her father, that old, shrunken man with his unkempt hair, his stained, untidy clothing,
his morose unshaven face, his wild, wretched, malignant eye?
Mr Brodie allowed her to return and keep the house, only for Nessie's sake.
Mary would have never left her, she had come
back just to be with her!
Life was of little value to her now, but nevertheless she realized that if she were to help Nessie from the frightful danger which threatened her in this house, she must be not only brave, but wise.
She resolved that she would save Nessie from unhappiness, even at the sacrifice of herself, but it was too late.
For Nessie there was no hope to be saved, there was only hope for Mary: she had whole lifetime in front of her and her life was Doctor Renwick.
During the years of her absence he had, from time to time, thought of her; often the memory of her figure, thin, white, fragile, had risen before him with a strange insistent appeal, as if to tell him that the thread of her life would return to weave itself once more into the texture of his existence.
And now Mary would have lived her life also for Nessie, the poor Nessie whose life had been so cruel and unjust.
L'ho preso solo perché in copertina c'è il quadro più bello che io abbia mai visto dal vero. è al Metropolitan Museum of Art a New York (Met x i ficaccioni).
Non mi intendo di arte, ci andai da turista tanto per andarci e quando arrivai per caso davanti a quel quadro rimasi stupefatto.
Da quella volta ho capito cosa si intende per sindrome di Stendhal.
E' un quadro stupendo. Mi mette una profonda angoscia come un nitido incubo.
Ho letto Il castello del cappellaio molti anni fa e ancora ricordo l'angoscia e il senso di impotenza che riesce a trasmettere la sconvolgente figura di James Brodie.
Gran bella saga famigliare, ma qualcosa non mi ha convinto.
costruito con scene tragiche vissute da personaggi a tratti esilaranti, l'abisso dell'orgoglio finisce per inghiottire un'intera famiglia. solo la pietà umana sarà ancora di salvezza...scorrevole, a tratti molto moderno.
papà Brodie, il cattivo della storia, è stato sicuramente il mio preferito: quella follia assecondata durante tutta le vicende, dall'assurda costruzione della casa alla routine della servitù familiare, è la rappresentazione della paura umana, è il modo più sbagliato per salvaguardare la propria famiglia e comunicarsi affetto. il vento che Cronin fa soffiare nell'incipit del romanzo accompagna in una realtà paradossale, divertente, incredibile, drammatica e sarà quello stesso vento che a fine romanzo si allontana dal paesino dove lascerà, forse, un pò di speranza. piacevolissimo e imperdibile!