16 APRIL 1932, Page 26


Hark ftosaleen. By Marjorie Bowen (Collins. 7s. 6d.) Broken House. By Ambrose South. (Grayson. 7s. 6d.) Alit. RICHARD BLAMER attracted a great deal of attention With Medal Without Bar. He will attract a great deal more with The Needle-Watcher. Will Adams was an Elizabethan adventurer whose ship was wrecked off Japan. He and his - comrades received from the Emperor Ieyasu a welcome so much better than they expected that they were not disposed to be captious. "Every man is fair," said Santvoort the Dutclunnn, "who did not set us upon those crosses." A strange inarticulate friendship sprang up between Will and the Emperor, and ultimately Will agreed to stay and learn the language. Santvoort and the crew of the Liefde did likewise, and Will soon became the Emperor's nautical odd-job-man. After the battle of Sekigatiara his value was apparent not only to the Emperor but, among others, to the old man with whom he lodged. Will, obediently falling in love with the old man's daughter, besought the Emperor 'to make him a Samurai, or sword-bearer : and after a fencing snatch (magnificently described) with the Emperor's son, the honour was conferred upon him. Some years later, English sailors visited the Island, but Will remained faithful to his quest for the true North. The Emperor died, and his -son, with whom Will had fenced, was hostile. Will's day ,was over, and he was dying of cancer. Neither the Emperor 'nor his Company at home would give him a ship, so he pre- vailed upon a pirate to get him one, and, knowing the true North now by his precious compass, he brought it safe to harbour and bequeathed it to his son.

The Needle-Watcher is a most original book, immensely entertaining, and full of meat. Mr. Blaker's writing is not always easy :

" But there must be one to steer,' said Adams.

There is this speaker,' was the boy's answer.

There is work enough for him,' said Adams, far he and I must not sleep at the same time. . . .' Suddenly he stopped ; and cursed in slow phrases of his own country that became, by an easy transition of thought, a prayer again to his Almighty God. Then he said. Change that compass now, while you can. Give him the true one. We will hold North and Eastward while we ourselves are at the wheel. You or I. And when we cannot help it, the dog must have his North and West. I can still do it, even so. . . . But that foolery of shooting off ordnance I cannot do— for him or any man. It is coraing again ; and I must be still.'

The boy said, 'Below—or here ' Here,' said Adams, for there had been times when the endurance of dumb and solid immobility had been enough to evade an issue."

In contrast to this are many passages of admirable sim- plicity and directness. Mr. Blaker soon has one beneath his spell, and one gladly takes his word for anything. He is to be congratulated most heartily upon a fine achievement. The character of Will, now an English sailor, now a Japanese nobleman, yet unswervingly Will Adams, would in itself be the making of any novel.

Miss James has written an excellent story, which is inter- esting both for its matter and because of a technical point which it raises. It is the story of Adriane, a sister at South's and its action takes place with the big hospital as background. Adriane's fiance was not altogether satisfactory :

"She wondered if them was anything she could have done to make Jerry see what he was doing to their relationship. He did love her very much, she knew that, but not just that extra amount to make him break the fixation he had for his mother and put her first."

Being a sensible and courageous girl, Adriane made several attempts to 'break the fixation " ; but in the end Terry's mother won. The story is alive and very well told : the hospital background is admirably suggested and described but —here we come to the technical point—the various parts of the book seem somehow reluctant to cohere and make a whole. I think the trouble is due to Miss James' experiment of seeing her scene successively through the eyes of different characters. Early in the book, we see an operation, first of all through the consciousness of the patient, then through that of a chance student. There are no such things as rules until failure or partial failure shows that one of them has been Moken. It is undoubtedly easier—and safer—to tell a story through the eyes of a single character, or else definitely from an Olympian point of view; to describe what happens to all the characters, from above or from below. Miss James' trick of hopping from mind to mind makes her narrative discontinuous. In spite of this, Hospital seems to me easily the best thing this very interesting writer has done.

Miss Marjorie Bowen's warm sympathy with Ireland finds expression in Dark Rosaleen, but English readers need fear no propaganda. It tells the romantic story of Lord Edward Fitzgerald, of his lightning courtship and marriage, his meeting with Wolfe Tone and other rebellious spirits, his struggle between his English loyalties and his gradual, almost unwilling realization of what the Ireland of his time was suffering under English rule : everything, in fact, up to his final betrayal. The story is swiftly and vividly told, and the dialogue is excellent. Miss Bowen does this sort of thing supremely well. She has no rival among her contem- poraries—unless it be Mr. George Preedy !

The story of Broken House is soon told. Clara, its indomi- table heroine, in a flood of compassion for a wounded man, married beneath her. Her one-legged Hughie could do little except farm in a desultory way, and the delicately nurtured woman lived in a house where nothing was right, where there could be neither comfort, order, - nor peace, and saw., her children grow up in poverty, without proper attention, without even enough to eat. The tale of her hardships and her courage is told in detail and with extraordinary conviction. The children, their animalism and their humanity alike sharpened by the life they lead, are all clearly character- ized. Hughie, the failure, seldom free from pain, despised by and despising his own kin, is an epitome of many lives that were irrevocably distorted in four years of war. Broken House is an exceedingly painful story, and those who are easily depressed had better not begin it ; for, if they do, they will be compelled to finish it. It is episodic in treatment, and, _I think, over-long : but it has throughout the ring of truth, and is, in its painful, powerful way, a masterpiece.