by DONAL GILTINAN
Bowers of Innocence by Geoffrey Cotterell (Hutchinson 40s.) IF loneliness and nostalgia -IL are the common lot of the aged, it may be that the isolation of the wealthy in retirement is greater than that of the indigent, who at least may be warmed a little by the sympathy of the voluntary visitor.
Geoffrey Cotterell's central character, Daniel Atherton, has no relatives. A septuagenarian, recently widowed, he retires to a comfortable flat in Sussex. He is not by nature clubbable. With typical reserve he shrinks even from the casual contact as an invasion of his privacy.
Soon, though, isolation begins to get on his nerves, and the daily sight of elderly folk around him. The spontaneous goodwill of the Fords, resident staff of the flats, has its effect -their youth and obvious happiness, and the physical resemblance of the young wife to an old-time flame.
I wondered a little whether a London solicitor of forty years' experience would allow himself to slide into the consequent involvement, in which the three Fords, husband, wife and son, become central to his life. But then a rather exquisite widow, nearer to Daniel's age, comes to live in the block.
She is cultured, accustomed to the good life-and a Cordon Bleu cook. Not so wealthy as he, she has been living for the most part in visits to her welloff friends. A union of shareportfolios seems desirable, and she sets out to stay him with food and flagons.
Mr. Cotterell makes his people live and breathe-the elderly Oblomov, the sybaritic widow and Heather, the porter's wife, who is beautiful, generous, sluttish and very possessive. Life above and below stairs is quietly contrasted as the private and subtle contest between the women is joined.
Which is the better course in such a case-to maintain one's social level, or to let distinctions go by the board?
In the end we leave Daniel happy in the bosom of his "family," oblivious to the echoes of Macbeth.