17 June

17 June 1920

2 Portland Villas, Hampstead - London

This persistent and deliberate search is perhaps peculiar to a certain character; but for the rest might not Joanna be anybody? We look in vain for the key to her - for that precious insight which sets her apart from the other characters and justifies their unimportance. The family group, for instance, is solidly stated, yet it is conveyed to us that of them all Joanna was the only one that really mattered, because she was the one that broke away. But we never felt her truly bound. And then the men - are they not the shadows of shadows? There is young Bob, who cries when he ought to have kissed her; her sensational Italian husband breathing fire, Pender, the man of the world, and in the background Lawrence, who without her ‘conceived of his life as a seed foiled of its consummation'. They are men only in so far as they are male to Joanna female.
All would be well, in fact, if the author did not see her heroine plus, and we did not see her minus. We cannot help imagining how interesting this book might have been if, instead of glorifying Joanna, there had been suggested the strange emptiness, the shallowness under so great an appearance of depth, her lack of resisting power which masquerades as her love of adventure, her power of being at home anywhere because she was at home nowhere. Mrs Carswell has great gifts, but except in her portrait of all Joanna's fanatical mother, she does not try them. They carry her away. [Review of Open the Door by Catherine CarswellAthenaeum, 25 June 1920]