10 JANUARY 1914, Page 25

Van Cleve. By Mary S. Watts. (Macmillan and Co. 6s.)—The

beginning of Mrs. Watts's book fills an with despair : the slow length of family history and introductions unrolls itself, with no hurry and no evident sequence, until we grow impatient and long to say of each successive character: "Now the acts of So-and-so, and all that he did, could they not have been written elsewhere? " And it is a little hard to accustom ourselves to a book written partly in the first person, partly in scenes at which " I " could not have been present, and to such Americanisms as "gangling" and "goo- goo-eyed." But after fifty pages hope dawns, and our tolerance is justified. For here is a book written with singular care and observation ; it follows the lines, now in fashion, of the

"family" novel, by which we do not mean one essentially suited for family reading, but one which derives its main interest from the unadventurous joys and pains of domestic life. Although Mrs. Watts breaks loose in the second part to follow the war in Cuba, we are conscious that the war and its accompanying melodrama rather interfere with, than assist, our interest in Van Cleve Kendrick and his inconvenient, restless family and his various friends, and make us wonder whether Mrs. Watts has found it difficult to shake off the atmosphere of the historical novel. At all events, she has written a most excellent story, which would seem to have in it as much of biography as of fiction, and is so full of human interest that we will forgive her the rashness of a novel of four hundred closely printed pages.