By Elizabeth Hamilton
An Unofficial Rose, by Iris Murdock (Chatto & Windus, 18s.). The Silver Bow, by Mary Gallati (Hutchinson, 21s.).
Come Home and Be Killed, by Jennie Melville (Michael Joseph, 15s).
No Pity, by Philip Auld (Arthur Barker, 16s.).
The Man on the Island, by Mary Bosanquet (Hodder & Stoughton, I5s.).
Prelude to Mutiny, by Jane Vansittart (Robert Hale, 12s. 6d.).
I N An Unofficial Rose, Hugh,
widowered and lonely, contemplates returning to his former mistress, Emma. His son Randall dreams of finding in Lindsay, a protegee of Emma, an escape from a marriage that has gone stale; Miranda, teenage daughter of Randall. is adored by her Australian cousin Penn, but her thoughts are centred on Felix, her mother's devoted and chivalrous admirer who sees Miranda as scarcely more than a child engrossed in her dolls. 1 have still not mentioned Humphrey middle-aged and attracted by Penn; or Humphrey's wife, Mildred, who longs for her old friend Hugh to feel for her a more romantic emotion than that of friendship; or Douglass Swann, the rector; or Clare his wife. Each one of these impinges upon the lives of the others, so that all are bound as if by an invisible net. Handled by a less talented writer such complexity could have appeared contrived. Miss Murdock has a remarkable capacity for indicating in what direction her characters will move (not only within the framework of the stori but beyond it) yet without insisting, as when handling puppets, that this or that must inevitably be so. Her characters are real persons.
THE SILVER BOW is an Italian story. At the turn of the last century Count Philippo Allici elopes with the daughter of a lawyer Their twin sons Teren zio and Contardo one. tough, handsome and extrovert, the other retiring and scholarly bridge the gap separating feudal Italy from that of Mussolini and the postwar years. The author of this colourful novel is the daughter of Mario Gallati of the Ivy restaurant and more recently the Caprice; many readers will recall his autobiography Mario of the Caprice.
Come Home and be Killed is a neat, tense crime story centred upon career-girl Kathie. Returning home one afternoon she finds that her stepmother Mumsy (a shady character) has disappeared along with her daughter Janet. Twentyseven-year-old Police Sergeant Charmian Daniels. yellow-haired, with large brown eyes-a native of Dundee comes on the scene to help unravel the mystery.
MOST people probably agree that the novel is a legitimate vessel for criticism of the social scene. But there are difficulties. Axe-grinding destroys the artistic quality of a work, since writers holding strong views on political or social questions cannot always resist distorting a story in their effort to put across ideas.
In No Pity, Philip Auld's picture of the National Health Service is a fair one if taken point by point -the red tape, the endless waiting,
the fnistration, the breakdown of the intimate relationship between doctor and patient. One of the weaknesses in Mr. Auld's book is that some of the characters (necessary figures, if the author is to make his points) do not come alive -and this is particularly true of the doctors. It is unfortunate, too, that Donald Mesting. despite his very real grievances, fails to evoke sympathy mainly because as a person he is dull. On the other hand there is something likeable about Donald's wife, sharptongued, blonde-headed Lib,. Perhaps the most convincing character is eleven year old Michael-nervous. timid, torn now this way now that by the tensions that exist between his parents
IN The Man on the Island the hest characterisation is again that of a boy-the intelligent, imaginative, sensitive Peregrine, terrified at the thought of being sent to a boarding school, condemned as a "sissy" by Anthony, his rather stupid. aggressively " Christian " father. Int o Peregrine's life comes Elizabeth Hargreaves, a philologist from Oxford, who has been given a sabhathical year to spend in the North of England studying the Northumbrian saints. An agnostic but deeply anxious to understand the Christian viewpoint, she gets little help from Anthony whose approach to religion is emotional and subjective. Light is eventually shed upon her darkness partly as a result of her relationship with Peregrine and partly through "the man on the island", a hermit-like figure trying to live in accordance with the traditions of the saints. A puzzling book, scattering with ideas (that are not always worked out) and rich in atmosphere.
In the Punjab
JANE VANSTTTART'S Prelude to a Mutiny treats of the fateful events that took place in the Punjab in the decade preceding the mutiny of 1857. Dominating the scene is the inspiring, wise and kindly figure of Sir Henry Lawrence.
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The Desert Fathers, by Helen Waddell (Collins, 7s. 6d.).
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Stravinsky in Conversation with Robert Craft (Penguin Books, 7s. 6d.).
The Literary Critics, by George Watson (Penguin Books, 4s. 6d.).