3 MAY 1930, Page 31


Curates' Eggs

The Acceptable Woman. By Eleanor Dunbar Hall. (Jarroldti.

7s. (kl.) -

llooKs about certain localities, districts with a strong local dialect or a particular local atmosphere, be it scenic or psych0- logical, are apt to be tiresome if the writer is not continually on guard against the temptation to air his knowledge at the expense of the story. It is so easy to overdo the local Colour, the "truth to life " ; so difficult to asume the right degree of familiarity in the reader. But Mrs. Manning-Sanders, in her Cornish story The Crochet Woman, never makes the mistake of laying too much stress on the peculiar nature of the back- ground to her tale. Her concern is primarily with character,- and with the situations produced by the inter-play of -Character. She is content, wisely, to use dialect sparingly ; to suggest rather than to state the strength of the superstitious element in the little village community, and to leave infich 'to . the reader's imagination. The result is a delightful book; unpre- tentious and good to read. The story itself, the story of Betty Stogs' love for Jan the Mounster (what a lovely:risme for a Tinker !) and the machinations of the witch-lih Crochet

• Woman to thwart their happiness, is simple and not "partibu- larly significant. But what it lacks in breadth of meaning" it makes up for, largely, in its shrewd good taste and its charm of style. And Mrs. Sanders has the gift—how rare—of writing perfectly natural dialogue. Unfortunately, I haVe never been in Cornwall, and never, to my knowledge, heard Cornish spoken. So that whether or not Cornish rustics talk like this .I have no means of telling. But what is far more important is that, artistically, this is exactly how people of their very unusual culture and mentality should talk. And, in addition, Mrs. Sanders has a certain skill with words, a knowledge of how to get rich effects without affectation, which gives her book a pleasantly individual character.

Mr. Louis Golding, in Give Up Your Lovers, attempts once more the subject of love between Jew and Gentile. It is a notoriously difficult subject, and one which writers with more finesse than he has have failed to master. Mr. Golding, unlike Mrs. Sanders, is unsparing of his Hebraic atmosphere. None the less; his rabbinical portions remain, I think, the most convincing parts of his book. They are crisp, sure, and full of vitality. Elsewhere he is too apt to lapse into vague similes and sugary sentiment, though he does it with the air of the connoisseur rather than the ingenue. But the real weakness of Give Up Your Lavers is the lack of movement in the first half of the story. One feels impatient with the author for keeping one so long watching the stage being set, and when the crisis eventually arrives its force is largely negatived by the fact that one has been kept nibbling at the bait so long.

In Seven Bobszoorth, Mr. J. D. Beresford describes the history of a " stunt " Garden City settlement, ostensibly through the indiscreet papers of its late Press agent, one F iddler. Unfortunately, Fiddler's style bears a quite remarkable resemblance to that of Mr. Beresford's elaborate " Preliminary Remarks," which rather spoils the effect of this little gesture. There is the same unmistakable touch—light, pleasantly flippant andgently satirical But Fiddler, like Mr. Beresford, has an unhappy knack of becoming a little smug on occasions, a trick of being outwardly terribly self-depreciative and inwardly more than a little self-satisfied. Of course this may be imagination on my part, -and it is quite- possible other People will find Seven •Bobswortic richly entertaining. But for me much of the humour was spoilt by this irrelevant vision of the -author giving himself an appreciative pat on the back Whenever he had made a. witty or ironical remark. After all, it is not so very difficult to he funny at the expense of un.scru- -pulous Pi;esa" ihagiiates- and financiers like Sir James or Lord Grout. Carieature, inoreOVef, is not really the best method for the would-be satirist. '. It-allows the reader too little of the enjoyments of :contrast, and it is always dangerously near the obvious. Mr. BeresfOrd's talents as a writer are worthy of better opportunities than those offered by this artificial tale. Miss Eleanor Mintier-Hall tells the story of Mary Penelope Charteris (" Lop-PY ") from birth to death, beginning with the death. Or rather beginning, shortly after the death, with an account of her daughter's tragedy. She then goes back to Loppy's birth; and traces_ her life through the hectic days of youth-10 the serene retirement of her old age. Miss Hall 'Writes in a; rather Swan-like crooning style of English, which Is 'pleasantlysuited to .the sentimental tone of her story. If she hid. been Content to leave it at that, all might have been well ; or at least fairly well: But. she unfortunately finds it "repeatedly' necessary to excuse her sentimentality through the mouths of her characters. The weak:little feminine man who narrates LoPpy's life with such pathetic unction is thus continually exclaiming that everyone must, think him a sentimental old fool. And-he is not the only one. Also Miss Hall has a' little stylistic -trick Of repeating certain words and phrases a great many times over, slightly in the manner of :Miss Gertrude Stein.. This affectation spoils much of her best writing, and dissipates the extravagant claims which the publishers make font on the dust-eover. All, the above books, however, are charmingly bound and produced, particularly -those--from- Messrs. Faber and -Faber, whieb besides having attractive wrappers, are of a very pleasing slimness. It is -high: time that booksellers stped-. forcing publishers to produce "ugly thick, novels, on the- pretext that the public won't- pay 7s. 6d. for a- thin -book: The public hates paying . 7s: 6d. for, a hoOk at any time but it weinki -far sooner pay it for one which- it can lint in *its-overcoat' pocket without : permanently destroying the. latter's shape.

: • - I. M. PARSONS.