The Ram in the Thicket. By Anthony Glyn. (Hutchinson, 15s.) All Through the Night. By Richard Vaughan. (Hart-Davis, I Is. 6d.) The Ram in die Thicket seems to me to be a very good novel, combining with .uninsistent adroit- ness an admirable picture of the up-to-date world of business with an equally authoritative portrayal of the intimate and social life of a jeune nzenage. The two do not easily go together. Soames on Forsyte 'change' was one thing, but Soames and the shadowy Irene was quite another, and since Galsworthy's failure most novelists have wisely plumped for the bedroom or the business side, not both. Mr. Glyn's hero, Hugo Pemberton, is a well-connected young man who is being groomed for the sugar business. The grooming is by no means painless since his elder cousin, the chief director, makes things as hard as possible for his junior relative out of a mixture of motives— jealousy, probity and plain bloody-mindedness- which the author dissects with feline amiability. The hero's wife, Diana, who has twins and works from ten to six on a woman's magazine, is as much a masterpiece of portraiture as the elder cousin. How well Mr, Glyn understands the wear and tear of this sort of life, and how impartially he shows the good aspects as well as the bad—the bone structure of class-conditioned good sense showing through the hard and careful complexion! He is particularly good on the iso- lation of the two young people from each other, the sensible but rather desolating formality of their relationship, only relieved by the private jokes—in this case an invisible dog called Patrick —that are the substitute for intimacy of those who assume it poor form to say how they feel. All this is so good that there was no need for Mr. Glyn to thicken the plot with his hero's literary ambitions, though they help to complete a dilemma which supplies a satisfying climax.
Joe Lampton, the hero of Room • at the Top, is as complete and credible as Hugo Pemberton, and is fed and maintained by an equal amount of literary talent. His ambitions are more straight- forward, however; he just wants to be at the top, with all the financial and sexual advantages which he supposes will come from being there. But although Mr. Braine has no trouble in demonstrating the mechanism of sexual conquest, he is much more perfunctory and uncertain when it comes to showing how his hero gets on in the world of affairs. Indeed, he has to make business success dependent on sexual, and invents a wholly fantastic hardheaded Yorkshire businessman who, because the hero has seduced his daughter, sets him up in a partnership after 'testing' him, in the old comedy convention, by offering him job and money if he never sees his daughter again. 'I may be obsessed by sex but there are worse things to be obsessed by,' remarks a character, and though this is probably true for the lifeman it is rather more dangerous for the realistic novelist. Joe Lampton is a tough and well- rounded young man, much more so than the average rather resentful young hero, but he shares with them the same fantasy projection of sexual success: there is a wide-eyed transparent coarseness about him which is engaging but which does pall before the end. About the chip on the shoulder Mr. Braine is much more subtle, and he has a great eye for different social settings and a nice gift of phrase. The northern town in both its dour and genteel sides is remarkably alive, particularly the suburbs where the rich live and entertain. 'From the lounge we could hear the genteel exoticism • of Two to Tango—like Earl Grey with gin in it—washing against the iron silence of the moors.' Mr. Braine's second novel should be worth looking out for.
Without Love is a large ambitious book— i Dostoievsky's Devils is somewhere in the back- I ground—which does not measure up to its subject.1 A professional Irish killer, nominally a Catholic, who has worked for the Reds in Spain and the SS in Germany, finds himself again in Spain on the orders of some extremely sinister and secret international organisation, with the job of killing a former terrorist who is anxious to emancipate himself from the movement and write the kind of book which is scornfully categorised as 1 Was Hitler's Gasman or 1 Was a Swine for Stalin. His sister, a traditional Irish girl who decides to marry a traditional Spanish bourgeois, and his mistress, a traditional Spanish mistress, try to save him and prevent the crime. .They are unsuccessful. Everything Mr. Hanley writes has a kind of brooding off-beat distinction, and this novel is no exception. Big themes are more important to him than good little scenes or good writing, but one wishes the characters could be made less conventional, less like so many we have met before manipulated by even more august hands. Like that other famous novelist who writes about Catholics Mr. Hanley has acquired a distasting, nose-wrinkling manner, even when his writing is most graphic, as if he couldn't bear to let his imagination bury its nose in the texture of its subject. The technique is just to mention the sordid details in a weary list— the lust, the fatigue, the rubber-goods, the cheap attic—as if the necessary enumeration of them really rather drained one's strength. This attitude produces a kind of lilting singsong jeremiad, as in this kind of dialogue: 'One has seen govern- ments come and go. One has been shattered with boredom. One helped to bring the pains on.' Or this description : 'It swarmed with tourists who shouldered their way from counter to counter, crying for their mail, their traveller's cheques, their guides.' How very sordid and meaningless of them! Mr. Hanley has real power and authority at his command: it seems a pity he did not avoid this convention of weari- ness, and so bring his people and places closer.
First Place to the Stranger is a charming and straightforward novel about an emigrant to Australia in the Twenties who toils, under the constant slur of being a Tom,' at shearing sheep, classing wool and mending fences, until the natives accept him and he becomes one of them. There is a nice easy pastoral sweep about the book, rising without effort to fine set pieces like the sheep-shearing scene. I found it interesting, sane, and comforting.
All Through the Night is a short nouvelle about the wild drovers of Cardiganshire in some past time. Mr. Vaughan's sense of Wales, of the brooding slate mountains hanging over the corri- dor valleys down which the cattle are driven, and of a child's apprehension of this sinister world, make a gripping story to be read at one sitting. My only criticism is that though it is short it should be shorter still—there is rather too much of the child hero's alarms, perceptions and hesitations.