15 FEBRUARY 1935, Page 28

Current Literature SARABAND FOR DEAD LOVERS By Helen Simpson The

theme of Miss Helen Simpson's new novel, Saraband for Dead Lovers (Heinemann, 7s. 6d.), is the tragedy of Sophia-Dorothea of Zelle, who was married as a child to her cousin George-Louis of Hanover, later George I of England, divorced on account of her relationship with the Swedish adventurer Count Philip von Kiinigsmark, and condemned to spend the rest of her life in confinement. Miss Simpson has an impressive talent for this kind of historical reconstruction (or rather semi-historical, since she has taken certain liberties, which she does not attempt to disguise, with historical reality), and she has written an extremely vivid, if at times a somewhat over-dramatic, book. Her picture of the German Court, with its contrasted magnificence and sordidness, its refinement and its brutality, and its tawdry intertwined intrigues, is skilfully drawn, and the interest of the plot is continuously sustained. The characters —in particular the sensual, malicious Countess von Platen, who was mainly responsible for Sophia-Dorothea's downfall- en well presented, though perhaps the grossness of George I, at any rate in comparison with his associates, is a shade overdrawn. Several contemporary writers could have told the melancholy story of Sophia-Dorothea competently, but it is safe to say that no one could have made as good use of the material as has Miss Simpson. Her wit, her liveliness, her imagination, and her ability to write a warm and sensitive prose make this an essentially individual achievement.