Versus Individual Anarchy Of England
Pray for the Wanderer. By Kate O'Brien. (Heinemann, 7s. 6d.) Joshua Slade. By E. H. W. Meyerstein. (Richards, 7s, 6d.) Snatch and Grab. By Rex Grayson. (Longmans, 7s. 6d.) The White Llama. By V. G. Calderon. (Golden Cockerel Press, 8s. 6d.)
Reviewed by FRANCIS BURDETT Miss Kate O'Brien would seem to be torn between two conflicting emotions. She detests the modern world of dictators and mass movements; she admires and sympathises with the individualist, the antisocial person who has been so largely responsible for, or at least provides a good excuse for, repressive regimes.
Pray for the Wanderer contrasts the Christian stability and continuity of modern Eire with the individualistic anarchy, in morals, faith and politics, that distinguishes contemporary England. She feels, even more I fancy than she really understands, the virtues of the "Green and trim Free State. Smug. obstinate and pertinaceous little island." She confesses that its "guilt seems positively innocent," that its " ignorances are perhaps wisdom when measured against the general European plight." It may be, she thinks and almost fears, "a last oasis, a floating Lotus Land when the floods arise," but her sympathies and heart go out to the "artist, who can allow himself no snobberies, who can sacrifice his investigations to no policy (even divine), whose field is the hidden, the lonely and the individual and for whom the five senses are eternally the paramount indications; for whom life's true purpose is, by his nature, the expression of life. Nothing more."
So she writes of Matt Costello, successful writer and accomplished amourist until the first jilt routed him from an England free from all restricting codes or dogmas. He fled to his home in Ireland and there, licking his wounds at some length he won a partial immunity from pain. Nell, wounded herself yet gracious and intelligent, represents for him the best that Catholic Ireland can give and so, with a certain lack of humour, he offers her a loveless heart. So crude a selfishness restores Nell to her lovable but cynical and ribald Torn, who represents a loyal but rather mocking part of the green and trim Free State.
• There is a very curious atmosphere about Joshua Slade. The writing is often clumsy and the events arc, perhaps, improbablebut Joshua Slade and, later, Meriel Farnborough and, from the first moment of his appearance, Bertram Grandinguy interest because of their strong and most unusual personalities.
It is into their world that we are translated and I found it a very refreshing one after the superficialities and commonplaces of so many books. It is not a particularly comforting world, and tragedy plays a large part in the story, but it is never trivial or stupid and music is there as a comforting thing. Joshua's father was cruel to his younger son; Bertram was defenceless, almost, before a dominating and destructive aunt, and Mend, for all her success on the concert platform and even because of it, was brought to the verge of insanity by her mother.
The scholar and eccentric who befriended Bertram was a living person, when first approached by the desperate young man, but Joshua was befriended, if that is the right term, by a long-dead murderer and thief, and Meriel's reason and happiness was salvaged by Catherine of Braganza, the unhappy consort of Charles II. So crude an outline does not do justice to a book which is distinguished by the strength and originality of the characters.
High spirits and excellence of writing, combined with an extraordinary diversity of events, are the characteristics of Snatch and Grab.
The life of John Vane, an Australian, was blighted by his good looks. They ruined his prospects as a lawyer, for who could believe that brains and solid purpose lay behind so perfect a profile. Even Dorothy felt unsure and delayed the engagement until after a tour of Europe. When a fortune fell into his lap John Vane sets out in pursuit and is kidnapped in California in the belief that he was the famous actor, John Sheridan. The kidnapper and his daughter are a charming couple and do their utmost, within the limits of business, to make life agreeable for John.
In the meantime, Sheridan, terrified lest his fame and wealth should attract members of the "snatch " racket, travels incognito to Hollywood. His adventures are even more surprising and amusing than those of John Vane whose appearance was so like his own. Even hardened readers of American books will be amused at the account of the shot-gun wedding at which his attendance as best man was almost as involuntary as that of the bridegroom. A light-hearted book which amuses from cover to cover.
The White Llama is a beautifully produced volume from the Golden Cockerel Press. It contains some short stories by a Peruvian writer that are as distinguished in their manner as they are sometimes regrettable in their matter. They tell of life in Peru and are full of that anti-religious mockery and sexual crudity that belonged to the Continental " Liberal " tradition. The author. we are told, is a distinguished Diplomat and Delegate to the League of Nations."