JOURNEYING BY LAND, ON AND IN THE SPIRIT
Towards a Pattern. By Gwen St. Aubyn. (Longman's, 3s. 6d.) Unsentimental Journey, By Nora Cundell. (Methuen and Co., 12s. 6d.) Home is the Sailor. By William Blain. (Hurst and Blackett, 12s. 6d.) Behind the Surgeon's Mask, By James Harpole. (Cassell, 8s. eds Reviewed by WILFRID ROOKE LEY
IN " Towards a Pattern " Mrs St. Aubyn gives an account of her conversion to the Catholic Church. These " letters to an intimate friend " need no apology, though she prefaces them by saying, " I myself have so
often derived interest and illumination
from even the dullest record of the experience of other people that I agreed to their publication," and she fears the charge of " too great an egotism and subjectivity."
But the story of e. conversion must necessarily be personal and intimate. She was the daughter of a diplomat, and her childhood was spent in moving from one capital to another. She was by nature seneitive to a religious atmosphere, and her early impressione were gained in turn from the Protestant North of Ireland, the Mohammedan East, Catholic Spain, and Orthodox Russia. It is not surprising that when she went to an English school she imagined herself " as apart, odd, a rebel, interesting."
After her marriage she lived among an intellectual set which one realises can have helped her little "towards a pattern," the need for which became insistent when she became a sufferer. Constant ill-health and physical pain relegated her for years to clinic and nursing home, and it was then that the pattern began slowly to form.
It was a chance reading of St. Therese of Lisieux—only of course one must not call it chance—that traced the first shadowy outline. The gift of faith came suddenly. Later, in the enforced inactivity of a clinic, she wrote these letters " as the most sincere expression I could give of the experience I had passed through." Many will be grateful to her for this slender volume, of which not the least merit is the self-forgetting purpose that must have inspired its publication.
MISS NORA CUNDELLS U zisrn Nsomata/ Journey is as near to being the perfect travel book as any I have read recently, and I can definitely give it Grade A for entertainment value. She landed in New York, bought a secondhand Ford for 100 dollars, drove it right across the continent, and turned up at a remote trading station in the wilds of Arizona, intending to step off only for lunch. Instead, she stayed for over a year.
Around her was some of the most spectacular scenery in the world, and Miss Cundell is a painter. Some of her impressions of that strange and beautiful land were to adorn the walls of last year's Royal Academy. They form the illustrations to her book.
Meanwhile, it was a long way from Chelsea to the Wild West, and Mies Cundell was not the sort to bridge it by any art nonsense. "Let's paint pictures if we must," she says in one place, " but for mercy's sake don't let's talk about them. As a topic of general conversation I consider that art, together with the peccadilloes of servants and the mysteries of the human inside, should be relegated to the limbo of the unspeakable."
There is not a flicker of pose about Miss Cundell, and she has the prettiest sense of humour. She is also far too feminine to be a feminist; just as she is far too real an artist to talk about it.
She gives one a real sense of the country and a living portrait of her hosts and their Indian customers, and she paints her own portrait, incidentally, as a delightful English spinster upon whom there are (if I may use the expression) no flies at all.
WHEN a man has spent a long lifetime at sea and sits down to write his reminiscences he should be sure of a large number of readers in these days, especially when he has so many good stories to tell as Captain William Brown. Home from, thr Sra is the record of a career which began in the days of sailing ships and ended in 1927 when Captain Brown, as P. and 0. Pilot at Penang, brought his last ship into harbour. Those years witnessed a revolution in seafaring.
For him they were crowded with hazard and adventure. it was he, for instance, who chased the German cruiser Emden when she raced out of Penang Harbour in 1914 after her raid there; who rescued the famous tea racer Glettoglo from a crowded anchorage when she caught fire; and who captained the Waihor through one of the worst typhoons in history. The book serves to bring home to us the long tradition of the merchant service for sacrifice and gallantry which have compelled our admiration since the war began.
WHEN Mr James Harpole wrote his Leaves front a Surgeon's Crum Book it won him a host of readers in England, and was translated into nine European languages. Its successor, Behind the Surgeon's Mask, is every bit as good. These stories are not fiction, though they are told in fictional form and by a first-rate storyteller. it Is no mere rhetoric to speak of the romance and drama of modern surgery; indeed, the nearest many of us get to drama in our lives is to become the protagonist in a major operation. Now and then some of its more spectacular feats get into the papers, some incredible operation on the thyroid glands or the lungs, hut the life of a great surgeon nowadays is a round of operations hardly less spectacular and each a little drama. Typhoid, arthritis, tuberculosis, for instance, have already passed within the surgeon's province.
Mr Harpole believes I he general public should be helped to understand a little of what the doctors are trying to do for them. His stories will certainly do this, but they will make us realise something else which we do not always remember: the immense human sympathy of the surgeon. It is not only the protagonist on the table, but the other actors in the waiting room, the wife or husband, upon whom the issue of the drama may equally be one of life or death,