A Great Book From Sigrid Undset
Ciunnar's Daughter. By Sigrid Undset. (Cassell. 7s. 6d.).
A Prayer for my Son. By Hugh Walpole. (Macmillan. 7s. 6d.).
The Two Doctors. By Elizabeth Cambridge. (Cape. 7s. 6d.).
Time Piece. By Naomi Jacob. (Hutchinson. 7s. 6d.).
Murder at Markendon Court. By H. H. Stanners. (Eyre and Spottiswoode. 7s. 6d.).
Reviewed by FRANCIS BURDETT The Master of Hestviken was a great book. It revealed, I think, the full powers of Sigrid Undsci and, on a smaller scale, the same is true of Gunnar's Daughter. She seems with absolute certainty and simplicity to be able to recreate the lives of the old northern warriors, chieftains and Vikings. They are so living that they might he contemporaries of our own and yet there is no falsification of their values.
In Gunnar's Daughter we find the simplicity and rough brutality of that age. No attempt has been made to disguise it and we accept it without offence because the only offence is in the primitive strivings of man.
There is a complete absence of sophistication of nastiness. The story of Vidgris' revenge on the man Ljot who outraged her is terrible in the depth of the passions roused and in their sincerity. Yet the understanding that goes with the telling, as well as the beauty and economy of the words, raises it to nobility. It faces the depths and mistakes and blundering heroism that is to be found in all vital human beings. There is nothing dehuman Or warped by a veneer of education but just stark humanity.
The foolish who turn their eyes from evil, and by so doing create greater and worse evils, may be shocked by plain facts but the understanding will approve and be
strengthened in their faith. The translation is above all praise.
Hugh Walpole Again
In A Prayer for My Son, a not wholly illuminating title, the scene is laid in the Lake District and Mr. Walpole dwells again on the beauties of that countryside. A married man, unhappy with his wife, seeks consolation with another woman but is unable to effect a legal marriage as divorce is refused him. A son is born and the father killed in an accident. The Mother transfers him to the guardianship of his grandfather and renounces all right over him. For ten years she lives a pseudo-intellectual life at Geneva and then an invitation arrives from the grandfather for her to visit her son. She accepts and finds after a short time that her affection will not stand the strain of another separation.
Although Colonel Fawcuss is willing enough for her to remain as a permanent guest there are complications. The Colonel develops an egOism that boarders on mania and reuders impossible either normal life or norMal' relationships. The growing tensiou in the heuse, the .gradisal. revelation. of the Colonel's aims, is well done as too the sense of approaching climax.
Though far from the best of Mr. Walpele's books it has an interest which would be more satisfying if it were not for the sort of sly emphasis that is laid on certain rather sordid details.
Simple Dealings with Simple Things .
Miss Cambridge deserves the thanks of those readers who are satiated with tragedy and modern upheavals. She deals simply with simple things. She has a love for the hurnaner •side of life and can extract pleasure from everyday concerns. In The Two Doctors we get a sympathetic picture of village life. John Anselm, a young doctor, has bought a practice. His mother, who lives with him, finds her dream of returning to the country fulfilled and John gets his first taste of a general practitioner's life. Dr. Murchie holds aloof because John's predecessor had raided his practice.
Against ark intimate picture of life in the village we follow John's career and watch the'healing of the breach between him and Dr. Murehie. It is delicately done and we are interested in these simple people and their relationships.
Miss Jacob deals with people enjoying a slightly higher, or at least richer, social
status. Claudia in Time Piece is the younger daughter of an impoverished drinking betting Yorkshire squire, who develops a remarkable talent for " managing " herself and others. We follow her progress from Victorian days, through two marriages and much success, back triumphantly to her original home. There are innumerable characters, of whom the most successful and sympathetic are her Jewish
parents-in-law, but all of whom have a 'slightly superficial vitality. Miss Jacob can undoubtedly tell a story and, within very definite limitations, tell it well.
Murder at Markendon Court is one of those plodding stories in which the body is found through slow and laborious investieations in time to clear up the mystery. To My mind the successful unravelling has to be accompanied by some brilliance of characterisation or circumstance to hold the attention; in this case I fear it was not held. An unsavoury figure, who used trade union politics as a means of bettering himself, was murdered whilst attending the International Brotherhood's summer school at Markendon Court.
Nothing could well have been less attractive than the Brotherhood and 1 felt such a relief that one of them at least had been put out of the way that 1 speedily wearied of the complicated investigations of the Inspector aided though he was by an American professor.