12 MARCH 1932, Page 36


Fugue. By Olive Moore. (Jarrolds. 7s. 6d.)

House for Sale. By Elissa Landi. (Chatto and Windus. 7e. 6d.) IT is very good for a conservative reviewer (like myself) to be brought up against a novel which is not written in the traditional manner. Such a book throws him back upon his own resources ; and, unlike the ordinary reader, he must make up his mind about it quickly. He may not sit upon the hedge. For this reason, a work which is unusual in form is almost sure to be underrated or overrated. The reviewer will either be put off by its initial difficulty, or else, thinking he has conquered it, he will include the author in his self-congratuistion. The restaurant wediseover „foe ourselves is always a very good restaurant. Not that Miss Olive Moore needs discovery. The discriminating have discovered her long ago, and her second novel makes me wish that I had read Spleen, since then, perhaps, I might have been among them.

Now, however, I will make up for lost time. Fugue is a very remarkable performance. It it written in sections, each roughly of chapter length, and each divided into sub- sections which vary in length from a couple of pages to a line or so. Its principal theme is-the emotions and thoughts of Lavinia Resule, who has had a child by one man, and is going to have one by another. She is by profession a society gossip-writer, and has a very poor opinion of her calling, being an exceedingly intelligent and well-educated young woman. It is the perpetual war of Lavinia's heart against Lavinia's head, of which she is an interested and usually a humorous spectator, that gives her her peculiar charm. L avinia belongs to .a type often seen to-day, the woman Possessed of a genius for life and longing for an activity which will give her the chance to spend and offer all she has, who can find no adequate response from men or from the world : and so declines to the second-rate. If this has a sentimental sound, I hasten to say that there is nothing sentimental about Miss Moore's portrait of her heroine. Lavinia is the real thing, observed with extraordinary subtlety and set clown with extraordinary skill. The men with whom she is surrounded are equally well observed and described, although far less attention is given to them : witty men, clever men, perceptive men. brutal men, but none of them worth Lavinia's little linger. There is a great deal of mockery in Miss Moore's book,: but she mocks because she believes, not because' she disbelieves. She has an ahnost terrifying acquaintance with modern life. She shrinks from nothing, and spares nothing. Fugue cannot hope for wide popularity, for it has no " story " and there is in it.a strong streak of the morbid,: but readers alto are not afraid of good writing and who can stand up to the impact, ofa brilliant mind will do well to make Miss Moore's _ requaintance. I do not think they will want to lose it.

s. The story of the girl of good family who elopes with a mountebank is always interesting, and Miss Ferguson's observation and good writing remove it at once from its novelette associations and make it particular. Mary Arbuthnot fell in love with one of the singers who came to entertain the guests at her twenty-first birthday party. She and her Dion made a runaway match, for her father naturally set his face against the affair. Mary, whose clothes were always put out for her at home, had only a romantic idea of the life that lay ahead of her. Roughing it was not at all to her taste, nor were Dion's " common " friends and relations. (Miss Ferguson shows her in a Very unattractive light here.) Worse, she had to get used to seeing Dion Willingly besieged by women admirers wherever he sang. He went elsewhere for his chocolate-creams, and,returned to her as a matter of course for his bread : a state of things which she learned to accept at first with dignity, then with tolerance, and finally without distress.. Upon one thing she was resolved, and that was that her daughters should not live in this Bohemian environment ; and her resolve was the beginning of fresh struggles. The story ends upon a peaceful note, Dion making up her face before she goes out to spend the evening with one of her former admirers. Dion is well seen and acutely studied. His character holds the book together better than does. Mary's, for hers 'depended for its strength upon the fixed environment of her early days. Dion is lovable, even to his own daughters, and not only bebause of the spell his stage presence casts upon them. There is a core of strength and sweetness in his nature, and the passages describing his relationship with Isis-father have a real beauty. Miss Ferguson is to be congratulated upon her story. She is a little too generous : the church-decorating scenes at the beginning of the book, witty though they are, are not necessary to the theme, and, about half-way through, the book copies Mary in temporarily developing a middle-aged " spread" : but all that matters is there, and Miss Ferguson has only craftsmanship to leans.

The Young EivOiutionist is another of Mrs. Buck's stories of China. The boy Ko-sen has a fever and is it'; the point of death. All medicine is useless, and in despair his parents carry him to the temple and consecrate him to its service. The monotonous life appals him, and with his friend Fah-li he runs away. The two boys hear a revolutionary officer speak, and enlist under his service. They are taught their drill and. the principleSof the revolutionitts : the picture of Sun Yat-senis hung upon the walls, and they arc taught; to Venerate it by the officer. There is a battle : the paling soldiers are put in the front lines; and Ko-sen's companions are killed. Ile finds Fah-li still alive ; and then, against his will, Fah-li is carried off by a doctor of his own race and one of the foreigners No-sen has been taught to hate. The white doctor does everything in his power to save Fah-pi's life, but; after Iiiigeiing for many days, he dies. Ko-sen leaves the army and returns home. There, an enlightenment corisni upon him, and Ise decides that he can serve his country hest by working under the white doctors who love Jesus. Thit cOnelusiOn k am sure is a mistake. The note of propaganda jars with precisely the same effect as if we discovered that something We had accepted in good faith, and were reading with delight, was after all only an advertisement. Every; thing else in the book is written with that unusual beauty of observation and statement which has given Mrs. Buck hei high reputation.

The hereitin of Miss ElisSa Landfs novel is a widow whose house is for Sale.'

.," I mean to describe the life I have led in this house. In these pages I shall toll about Helen, Katherine and Oliver, My, children; about Janies, my husband, and about all our friends. including Christopher and Janet M. in short, about all that ire have lived through in thiS house."

Elsa is as good as her word, and a most attractive tale results. Miss Landi writes straightforwardly, almost artlessly', bid with an uncanny knack of getting the right fish into hei net. She luau a generous observation, a firm hold upon the saner, warmer, human values, and a gift for story-telling which make her book's occasional weaknesses of little account.