-ma superb storyteller
Lire and Kicking Ned. By John Mesefield. (Heinemann, 8s. fld.) No Arms No Armour. By Robert D. Q. Henriques. (Nicholson and Watson, 8s. 6d.) Flight from a Lady. By A. G. Maedonell. (Macmillan, 8s. 6d.) Wea It Yesterday! By David Horner. (Macmillan; 8s. 6d.) Reviewed by FRANCIS BURDETT
MR MASEFIELD is a superb storyteller. He has a robustness that, combined with a with! knowledge of surprising things and an extreme sensitiveness to the use of words, makes him an outstanding figure.
Lire and Kicking Ned continues that great story begun in Dead Ned. II may not be quite so enthralling as its predecessor ; we, or at least I, miss the loved figure of Admiral Cringle, and no one, and least of all perhaps Captain Paul, takes his place. But i he voyage under that
grim man, in whom amazingly Ned found something to love and regret is a bracing and thrilling experience. It is when we get to the African coast that the years spent there amongst an unknown people and in remote circumstances pall a little. But interest revives and grips us again when Ned, still legally a felon and condemned to death, returns on a political mission to England.
There are tense scenes when he revisits, in a sweating terror, Newgate and sees in changed circumstances those unholy rascals Dennis and Henery. In the event Ned is rehabilitated and we put down the volume contented and rejoicing.
oUR appreciation of No Arms No Armour would have been greater if the publishers had not tried to dragoon lla into enthusiasm by printing an extravagant report from their reader.
In many ways it is a sincere and able book. It describes a typical young officer, of the sporting and county sort, and how he developed from a superficial and wholly conventional young man into one more sensitive as well as more experienced. The means to this end are the suffering and inactivity that followed an accident and the efforts of two fellow officers.
Sammy, the Major, is a slightly unreal figure that beneath an unimpressive exterior hides what, we are assured, is a deeply impressive character. Daddy, a disillusioned and brilliant officer, is, by contrast, a wholly convincing figure. Sammy is perhaps too good to be true; his philosophy of sympathy and love is of course admirable in itself hut seems to stop short perilously near sentimentality. Daddy, for all his drink and despair, for all his vile tempers and worse manners, somehow gets our sympathy. He is critical of the Army, and no doubt there is a great deal in what he says of the stupidity and worse of those in control. But this, unfortunately, is not confined to the Army.
There are some splendid scenes of life in Africa, and best of all of a trek into the wilds in search of game and solitude. The author would seem to have an accurate and extensive knowledge of Army life, and though it is criticised for killing thought and spirituality, the resultant picture is not unattractive. An unconventional book amid very honest, but not, perhaps, quite as profound as it is meant to be.
MR MACDONELL has, in the past, written so extremely well that it is with disappointment that one closes Flight from a Lady. The thread which holds together this series of letters is tenuous. The writer, in a mood of anger and petulance, leaves the lady he loves and swears it is for all eternity. We have our doubts as, once ensconced In his specially chartered aeroplane, he fills up long hours in writing to her. He writes of anything that passes through his mind and tinctures it with a little affectionate abuse. We never believe his excuse that once he arrives at his far eastern island he will, indeed, cut aloof for ever.
So the final telegram in which he makes an appointment with the rejected lady at the Savoy grill does not come as a surprise. The letters contain some bitter and partisan comments on recent political events, and it is natural enough, since the writer is so rich, that he should be an upholder of the extreme Left.
There are some agreeable descriptions of places visited in his flight. But none of this seems of any importance either to the writer or to anyone else.
WAS IT YESTERDAY? deals with the life of a small boy in the prewar (1914) years. He spent much of his time with two maiden aunts at a residential resort on the south coast. The most is made of the minor eccentricities of the various inhabitants. What is more amusing is the account of a long holiday he spent in France which is very sympathetically described. The boy himself seems to have been an inveterate eavesdropper and takes great pride in youthfully improper conversations with any complaisant companion.
Such an insignificant and horrid child hardly deserves a book to himself. Continued at foot of next column.