21 AUGUST 1936, Page 25

Gangways and Corridors

Gangways and Corridors. By Winifred James. (Philip Allan.

12s. lid.) •

Gangways and Corridors (an alluring title fully realised by a book of lively and very human entertainment). is the record of a hectic period in its author's life when, by the fortune of war and the caprice of circumstance, she was whirled along from one steamer to another, from port to port, and from hotel to hotel—" waking up in different bedrooms all the time," packing and unpacking, now in New York, now in Madrid, again in Paris, then off to Mexico, back again to London, by the Thames, the Mississippi, the Brazos and the. Viga Canal ; a breathless odyssey, of which no detail seems ever to have escaped her pictorial and humorously critical memory. If to a slow-moving wit the rush of impressions is sometimes overpowering, or the pressure of emotion embar- rassing, there can at least be no two opinions about the sincerity, the vitality,. and the penetrating observation which fill every page with the essential stuff of human nature. " All the realities," says the author, " seem to belong to remem- brance rather than the moment." Miss Winifred James's remembrance does valiant service to her courage and good humour. It turns upon every tack with the swift resource of the brilliant talker. She fills her story with character. Every- one she meets is a live personality. Every scene in her change- ful diorama glows and glitters upon the page.

Miss James's particular charm as a narrator lies in the reaction of her own personality upon the misadventures and compensations of her journey. She is not afraid to exploit her own emotions ; and her genial frankness disarms criticism. Perhaps at the present time the most generally attractive of her chapters will be those dealing with Spain, in the years imme- diately after the War ; they certainly explain much in the confused irrationality of the Spanish scene today. The motley life of the streets, the squalid regiment of beggars, the rubbish market, the mannequin parade, the ballet, the dancing hall, the rapt and solitary worshippers in the cathedral, the gloating crowd at a bull-fight—many travellers have observed and moralised the scene ; but Miss James interprets it and leaves it impressed upon the mind. Her Dickensian habit of aniniat- in,g the inanimate, even if it belongs to an outmoded fashion, plays upon the imagination, and blends, simply and naturally, with the humorous realism of the background of commerce, with its interplay of suavity and hardness, of alternating eager- ness and hesitation, its unwitting disclosure of the clash of character with character, of type with type—the very germ of misunderstanding, resentment, and international complica- tions. In short, this is a treasure-house of reminiscences gay and grave ; which, setting out to be entertaining, and never losing touch with the entertainer's gift, penetrates, by instinct and sympathy, far below the surface of mere amusement. Its own abounding human nature is its guide to the wellsprings