12 MAY 1923, Page 22


Tan authors of A House PUll of People have undertaken a difficult but an interesting task : and undertaken it with remarkable success. Instead of taking the lives of a single group of persons for their plot, they follow the diverse fortunes of the inhabitants of an entire block of fiats : fortunes that pursue their own courses with only the very slightest reaction • A House Full of Peo-ple. By E. and M. Behazten AntInk. Translated from tbP Dutch by J. Menzies Wilson, London : Jonathan Cape. [78, 13d, net.] on each other. And yet the book is not without a unity of .a sort, provided by the disagreeable concierge and his wife, who know all their. troubles ; manoeuvre always for the bettering of their House's status : for the removal of Doubtful Persons, the letting of the flats to the Right People. And by way of contrast to this unpleasing, if idealistic, pair, there is Jeanne, the universal servant, with her sympathy for everyone, her boundless goodness of heart. Naturally it is with the tenants with troubles, the ones of whom Carpentier would fain be rid, that the authors are mainly concerned : with poor Mine. Lourty, whose husband goes gradually mad ; with the two young artists, Aristide and Westin, and the unhappy little Joz.ette ; with the middle-aged couple, Herz and Mme. Dutoit, 'who temper the sin -in which they live with boundless and permanent affection. But the characters and their woes are treated with a sympathetic realism unspoilt by melancholy, and the contrasts between them are most nicely adjusted. Indeed, the construction of the whole book is—as it needs to be—most careful : effects of unity and contrast are introduced without any straining, any introduction of a falsely dramatic element. The story makes very pleasant reading, and even the most " difficult " situations are handled with a delicacy which could give offence to no one : a rather remarkable achievement in a modern novel of Parisian life.