By CLARE SIMON
THE VODI, by John Braine (Eyre & Spottiswoode, 16s.).
BRING BACK THE SINGING, by Stella Morton (Hodder, 15s.).
BROTHER CAIN, by Simon Raven (Blond, 15s.).
EATING PEOPLE IS WRONG, by Malcom Bradbury (Seeker, 18s.).
FREE FALL, by William Golding (Faber, 15s.).
THE HIDING PLACE, by Robert Shaw (Chatto, I5s.).
THE SEVENTEEN WIDOWS OF SAN SOUCI, by Charlotte Arnistrong (Peter Davies, 18s.).
THE CHARM OF MAMBAS, by George Brendon (Heinemann, 16s.).
DZOKUTI IN THE BUSH, by Ursula D'Ivry (Peter Davies. 18s.).
A BLUE ROSE. by Naomi Royde Smith (Hale, Ms. 6d.).
IT is traditional, in lists of -• suggestions for Christmas presents, to apportion one to every member of the family : the knitted tea-cosy for Auntie Vi, the patent egg-poacher for Mum, and so on.
And so it is with this season's new novels although, it must be admitted, some bizarre relations will have to be called in to provide a stocking for every title. Anyway, here goes.
THEyoung intellectual of the family-either sex-will be delighted to receive John Braine's new novel "The Vodi-. Everyone on the literary scene will be discussing it.
It is a story, tough and authentic and beautifully written, of a young working-class northcountryman in a sanatorium with TB., of how he faces failure and likely death and finally conquers with the help of a childhood fantasy.
Your young intellectual will tell you it lacks the strong story which characterised the author's earlier notorious "Room at the Top" but for all that it is magnificently readable and the author's Catholicism, never stated, can be detected by those with a nose for such things.
'Good read No one could fail to notice the underlying Catholicism in Stella Morton's "Bring back the Singing", which is the obvious choice for the conventiOnal aunt who likes a "good read" with a strong moral flavour. It is all about elegant successful Clare Eagleton who neglects her children for her career and finds her husband moving in with a less perfect but more homely woman who also (like in the advertisements) is popular with the children. Everyone behaves terribly well in the end.
"Brother Cain" by Simon Raven will do for the older brother who is grown-up and not often at home. This is important, because it is just the sort of book adolescents will pounce on and read in corners until it is wrested from them by horrified elders.
It is about an unscrupulous young man who is employed by a sinister organisation in Rome to do their dirty work; i.e. murder. His amatory adventures are described in plenty of gusty detail, and even Father Christmas would be shocked if he opened it. But, for those who are hardened to it, a good "Ian Fleming" type story.
IssHE title of "Eating People is
Wrong" by Malcolm Bradbury will raise a laugh from father. He will not be so enchanted by its contents, for it is another "Lucky Jim" provincial University novel, full of funny types and with a likeable wistful central character called Professor Treece. But it is a very safe choice.
For more adventurous fathers there is William Golding's "Free Fall," which is a psychological study of a prisoner-of-war looking back on his youth and trying to decide at exactly what point the fabric of his fife began to disintegrate. Gloomy. but shrewdly written stuff for after-Christmasdinner reading.
Another war-flavour story (perhaps for the uncle who got a decoration?) is "The Hiding Place" by Robert Shaw. This is about a German who gives two British airmen shelter in his cellar and is so delighted by the idea of keeping them as pets that they are still there ten years later. Very good characterisation, and a nice description of the airmen escaping across Europe under the impression the war is still on.
FOR the three distant cousins who have planted themselves on you this Christmas without an invitation I recommend three titles. "The Seventeen Widows of San Souci" by Charlotte Armstrong is cosy, feminine, and ineffably dull. It is about a guesthouse and the widows (guess how many?) who inhabit it. Lots of introspection and soul searching.
"The Charm of Mambas" by George Brendon and "Dzokuti in the Bush" by Ursula D'Ivry are about, respectively, Burma and Rhodesia. Nothing wrong with that, and your cousins may well he charmed by your choice for them.
AND so, finally, to the most important adult member of the family: Mum, who will certainly want a good "easy" read after the toils of cooking the dinner. For her, Naomi Royde Smith's "A Blue Rose". which is delightful and not only for its lovely cover.
It is about an unhappy woman who finds escape in her rosegarden and her quest for a "blue rose". Gently told with a nostalgic ending, it cannot, as the magazines say, "fail to please".
But for the mother, and there are many like her, who considers this sort of stuff anaemic, shut your eyes and drop into her stocking "The Vodi" or "Brother Cain" (mentioned above). Either may give her, and yourself. a surprise.