The three books gathered together as Eustace and Hilda explore a brother and sister’s lifelong relationship. Hilda, the older child, is both self-sacrificing and domineering, as puritanical as she is gorgeous; Eustace is a gentle, dreamy, pleasure-loving boy: the two siblings could hardly be more different, but they are also deeply devoted. And yet as Eustace and Hilda grow up and seek to go their separate ways in a world of power and position, money and love, their relationship is marked by increasing pain.
L. P. Hartley’s much-loved novel, the magnum opus of one of twentieth-century England’s best writers, is a complex and spellbinding work: a comedy of upper-class manners; a study in the subtlest nuances of feeling; a poignant reckoning with the ironies of character and fate. Above all, it is about two people who cannot live together or apart, about the ties that bind—and break.
The combined effect of these three books is one of mounting excellence. Eustace, the central figure, is an immortal portrayal of the delights and agonies of childhood and adolescence. I cannot but envy the author of these books. He must feel immensely satisfied to have written a social novel which is in the class of George Meredith. He is a mature and rich writer, his gift for narrative balancing nicely with his other gifts of description and dialogue.
— John Betjeman