In The Cause Of Liberal Progress
Sigrid Undset Tackles Modern Problems
The Faithful ,Wile, by Sigrid Undset (Cassell, 7s. 6d.) White Hell iff Pity, by Norah Lofts (Methuen, s. 6d.) Silk Purse, by Jerrard Tickell (Heinemann, 7s. 6d.) Final Singing by Owen Lewis (Duckworth, 7s. 6c1.) Reviewed by FRANCIS BURDETT Miss Unds t in The Faithful Wife leaves the past, tha she can so admirably reconstruct, and t ens her attention to modern problems. S e takes the case of a couple who; whilst deeply fond of each other, accept the modern liberal View, or what used to be Such, that husband and wife should live together, but unhampered each by the other.
Natbalie's father and mother had been ardent workers in the cause of liberal progress. Her mother advocated " a new morality and modern divorce laws and woman's right to dispose of her own person and all t tat sort of thing." One daughter acted se this advice and got into serious trouble with her parents for doing Nathatie's marriage was more orthodox yet based o the principle that she should keep both h r job and her financial independence. S c, in fact, was financially more successful .t an her husband. There were no children ut for sixteen years it seemed a wholly su cessful marriage.
Suddenly 'igurd, the husband, confesses a lapse of orals and the advent of an illegitimate child. Nathalie, deeply affectionate an wholly unsuspecting, was utterly bewildered. Anger, jealousy and a certain pridg enable her to accept separation and divorce. Gradually suffering and an unsuccessful adventure in love lead her into a deeper understanding of herself.
Sigurd, who is himself overwhelmed by what he has done, achieves a sort of nobility. In all humility he explains to Nathalie many things that her complacent happiness had never guessed. There is constructive suggestion as well as destructive description in this study of a modern home. Whilst it will not rank, I think, amongst the best of Miss Undset's work it will interest many readers.
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There is n ever deepening gloom about White Hell f Pity. As we read we hope, but our ho es are vain, The excellence of the tellin intensifies the effect but never completely iconvinced mc, at least, that Emmie Bacon need have been so comp16tely defeated. In fuel, there is r. touch of propaganda about the book that detracts from its interest. So mach that civilisation has always recognised as good, religion for example, is excluded so that the wickedness of Modern conditions may be ace ntuated.
Emmie c me from a dreadful home where a sla rnly evil mother ignored every human inSt et so as to gratify her heastial desires. A ter a particularly vile episode Emmie is escued by the school 'mistress who practidally adopts her. She is sent to an excellent school and it is hoped that she will win a scholarship and become in time a teacher herself. But overhearing a conversat on between her benefactor and an unple ant woman friend she runs away and akes a situation as maid in a farmhouse.
Mrs. Lof us is determined to give a black picture and succeeds only too well. Emmie herself had, as was essential if she was to be a foil to the wickedness of others, many good points but was notably lacking in common seese and drive.
There is a good deal of fun in Silk Purse and a sort of lighthearted wickedness that is certainly amusing. Jacky Collins rose from the unenlightened gutters of a northern tqwn to become a successful man of business and fiancé to .the daughter of
a peer. It is a rollicking progress greatly enhanced by the lovable figures of the Irish policeman and his wife who adopted him at a moment of great stress. It is unfortunate that there is a rather coarse brutality, in the frequent references to sexual matters, that is far from pleasing.
Rosic Coyne is the pivotal figure in Final SinOng. She lives and loves in a Lancashire industrial town and if there is a great delll of truth there is also a great lack of reticence in the story of her life. The author understands Lancashire folk and is able to impart to his characters vitality and body. Some scenes stand out in the memory, such as that of the abortive strike, but the brutality of some of the descriptions seems unnecessarily distressing.