Elizabeth HilltlihOD reviews The New Novels
GALLOWS CLOSE, by Estrith Mansfield (Stockwell, Ilfracombe. 12s. 6d.).
CATHOLIC thread runs through "Gallows Close," a romantic novel set in the time of Monmouth's rebellion and telling of a woman who is sacrificed almost to the degree of martyrdom because her husband cannot bring himself to admit that he has married a Papist.
Much historical research has gone to the making of this book which is based on fact. The atmosphere of the West Country its flowers. animals, and the passing of the seasons-is beautifully evoked.
THE HEALING TOUCH, by Philip Gibbs (Hutchinson, 13s. 6d.).
FROM where the spiritual healer derives his power, how far it can be exercised, to what etxent the cures are permanent are some of the questions touched upon in Sir Philip Gibbs's latest novel about the problems of a young clergyman who appears to have the gift of curing the sick.
This might have been a very interesting book but the characterisation is shallow, the approach often sentimental.
It includes a detailed description of a pilgrimage to Lourdes.
FOOL'S QUESTION, by Mary O'Connor (Bles, us, 6d.).
1.6 irs just as self-indulgent to indulge one's fears as it is to indulge One's flesh," says Fr. Halley in Mary O'Connor's first novel about the difficulties and anxieties of an " ordinary " wife and mother-one of thousandswho lives in a rural district, in a half-timbered house; has a Swiss "help," a garden, a Hoover, a car and a fair number of friends and acquaintances differing only from herself in that they are not " R.C.s."
The daily round of an " ordinary " woman is a theme that must appeal to a large reading public. Perhaps I am carping if I complain that, for me. the book falls short through failing to bring out the fact that, seen sub specie oeterrufous. there is no such thing as the " ordinary " human being and that the most hum-drum routine can transcend its seeming earthliness. In spite of commonsense, humour, Catholic values, there is a sadness in the writing that amounts almost to disillusion, as though to say: " This is the best one canhope for." There is no joy. no lifting of the spirit.
THE DAUGHTERS OF MRS. PEACOCK. by Gerald Bullett (Dent, 15s.).
("ERALD Bullett's latest novel, which has at moments a Jane Austin quality, takes the reader
back to the peaceful, leisurely days of Queen Victoria, when children addressed their parents as Mamma and Pappa, and to play croquet with a handsome curate was to be daringly modern.
It is the story of three sisters brought up in a well-to-do middleclaes home under the wing of a kindly if somewhat overwhelming mother. God is in His Heaven, Victoria is on her throne, all is right with the world.
Julia, Sarah and Catherine Ann are devoted to their home, devoted to one another. Yet each is an individual with her own tastes, whims, traits of character, love-problems.
A human, entertaining, and at times. an exciting story.
WORSE THAN WANTON, by Roderic Owen (Collins. 13s. 6d.).
A SEQUEL to "Green Heart of Heaven," this novel is also set in the South Sea Islands. It is about the marriage of Rose, the daughter of the English Governor to Sata, the son of the High Chief of Manahoa. Roderic Owen not only tells the story well. but he views his characters with a detachment so great that it is impossible not to understand the viewpoint a both bride and bridegroom.
" Worse Than Wanton " is a human. poignant story.
A HAUNTED LAND, by Randolph Stow (Macdonald. 13s. ód.).
THIS is a first novel by a young
Australian poet. It centres round the Maguire familyAndrew Maguire, tied to the memory of a dead and adored wife; his sons and daughter the dog Lash and a cat that sees ghosts. The story is melodramatic and excessive in horrors that pile one upon an other. Yet these faults are more than compensated for by a freshness and a wild poetic beauty that suggests Emily Bronte. It is to be hoped that Randolph Stow will write more novels.
THE TONTINE. by Thomas B. Costaln (Collins, 2Is.).
AN immense, crowded book of
nearly a thousand pages. It lumbers through almost the whole of the last century, from the time of the battle of Waterloo. There are innumerable characters and a constant change of scene England, Africa, Jamaica, Bermuda. America-so it goes on.
There is romance, colour, and excitement, but writing on this scale needs to be of a very high quality. This novel is competently written, but one could hardly say moi-e, nor are the drawings good enough to justify being there, Still, those who like an enormous, spectacular film from Hollywood will enjoy " The Tontine."
NO CROWN OF GLORY, by John Goldthorpe (Longmans. Hs).
THIS hook also reminds me of a Hollywood film. Only a third of the length of " The Tontine." it yet remains a large. exuberant book (there are over forty characters) that tells with certain conviction and, sometimes with pathos, of the Roman persecution of the Christians in Alexandria at the beginning of the fourth century. It is particularly the story of the virgin, Theodora. Unlike some books on similar themes it gives the point of view of the Romans and of the Egyptian worshippers of Isis as well as that of the Christians.