By ANGELA DU MAURIER
A State of Siege by Janet Frame (W. H. Allen, 22s. 6d.).
An End To Asking Why by Colin Evans (Chatto & Windus, 25s.).
Jerusalem The Golden by Margaret Drabble (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 21s.).
A Woman of My Age by Nina Bawden (Longmans, 21s.).
The Maze Maker by Michael Ayrton (Longmans, 30s.).
The Eighth Day by Thornton Wilder (Longmans, 30s.).
EACH of these novels has one thing in common: in all of them the reader is switched backwards and forwards in time, a trait that can irritate occasionally.
"A State of Siege" tells' of a middle-aged spinster's new life in a small island off the coast of New Zealand. There is very little dialogue but the atmosphere and descriptions of the house and island are splendidly done; the point of it all is the stark terror that confronts the woman in her new surroundings.
It is over-written and I could not become interested in Malfred Signal's earlier life which she tried to recapture during the nightmare which takes up most of the book. Alas, I found myself skipping and am still in ignorance at the cause of her terror.
"An End to Asking Why" is an apt title for a gripping book. The scene is presumably somewhere on the Adriatic coast, Yugoslavia, Albania? Stefan Radek is missing. He is the Communist Leader and hero' of his country. Back into this man's past—childhood, youth, manhood—one is taken.
I thought it more enthralling than "The Spy Who Came In From the Cold". Fabulous descriptions of scenery, atmosphere, terror, uprisings, fill its 223 pages. Only the end I found tiresome. I too was asking "why", and perhaps the author, Colin Evans, was too. But for sheer excitement I recommend it strongly and I hope a good film is made from it.
I was half-way through "Jerusalem the Golden" chuckling with delight thinking "this is a cosy novel, a woman's book" when I began to realise that for all its wit, amusing dialogue and perspicacity it was becoming far from cosy.
Clara, the chief character has been brought up in a dull North Country town by dreary parents. The reader meets her when she is a student in London, on the threshold of her friendship with a fascinating Boh nian family.
Readers who dislike novels dealing with sex may tut-tut occasionally but I enjoyed "Jerusalem . . . " enormously, although I am not sure Clara's character was drawn consistently.
Nina Bawden's "Woman Of My Age" is a very adult piece of work. It is written in the first person: Elizabeth is bordering on "young middle-age", with a gorgeous sense of humour which does no prevent her being at the same time disillusioned, angry, sad, amused, indignant and loving. She and her husband are on a holiday in Morocco. Descriptions are vividly painted, and the character studies of everyone in the story superbly drawn.
Elizabeth was for me such a sympathetic person; I giggled with her, was indignant on her behalf often, once or twice I admit my eyebrows raised in surprise, possibly at the end I felt a little shocked? I think it is an important book. It may offend some, but it is very good indeed.
"The Maze Maker", Michael Ayrton's superb work, needs a scholar's review. It is the story of Daedalus, as written by himself. One reads of his relationship with the gods—more especially his allegiance to Apollo—his banishment from Greece to Crete where he is taken under the wing of Minos, and the incredible life he leads there: the building of his labyrinth at Knossos, his help in the frightful mating of Queen Pasiphae to the bull, the flight with Icarus his son, and the Apollo's ttelcsdaeantgherin the air due to
The writing at times is as superb as anything I have ever read—symphonic. The descriptive pages of the flight (wearing wings made by Daedalus) will remain in my memory for a long
tirnIfe. only I could have read Thornton Wilder's book slowly. No reviewer with allotted space can do justice to this great story.
It tells of the lives of the members of the Ashley and Lancing families. The scenes are set in various of the United States and Chile—the most important figure is John Ashley, wrongly accused of murder at the beginning of the saga, in 1902.
"The Eighth Day", a long book, tells of his story before and after the murder, and the story of his family as they grow from children to full matunty. It tells also the story of Breck Lancing, the man who was shot, and his family. it is a tremendous chronicle with a denouement not entirely unexpected by this reviewer.
Of the six novels which it has been my pleasure to read I have no hesitation in naming the last as the greatest. It is indeed the work of a great master.