31 MAY 1930, Page 31

a first novel. I. M. PARSONS. THE SMALL DARK MAN.

By Maurice Walsh. (Chambers. 6d.)—It should be easy enough for the novel-weary to sneer at Mr. Walsh's " small dark man," to say that we are already- tired out by heroes made up of such stale material as valour and chivalry, romance and quixotry, temper and sen- timentality. Yes, it should be easy, but actually it is impos- sible, for the small dark man in his big black hat comes leaping out at us from the third page of the book. He compels us to follow him on his adventures, to believe that love is a new thing, and the quest of it unheard of until he went follow- ing a tow-haired girl over the Scottish hills. He is so alive that we never stop to ask : " But would any real man do this or that ? " The small dark man behaves exquisitely and ridiculously, and we accept all his actions as those of a Mend. We delight in his songs and his lighting. There is very little plot in this story of a man's visit to the home of a War-time -friend, and that little is as old as the tale of Eden. The hero loves one girl and thinks that she is in love with somebody else. His friend loves another girl and thinks that she is loved by the small dark man. There is a reckless impertinence in Mr. Walsh's choice of theme, and if he had not handled it so brilliantly the story would be banal : as it is he has produced one of the freshest books it has ever been our joy to read. He writes with zest, has a wonderful instinct for the right word, and his style is only marred by certain rather irritating mannerisms. The new edition of this book is welcome.

SHRIMPS FOR TEA. By Josephine Blumenfeld. (Heine- maim. 7s. 6d.)—Each of these twenty-one short stories is, within its own narrow compass, a perfect piece of work. Their author avoids that mistake so common among writers of brief fiction : she never attempts to make a pretty pattern. There is no rounding off, no grand flourish at the finish : each begins naturally and ends naturally. The best story of all is the last one, which describes the emotions of a small boy during a theatre and supper party arranged for him as a birthday treat. Everything is wrong : he doesn't understand the play, he doesn't understand the talk, and he is not asked to have a second helping of ice-pudding. The horrors con- tinue, until at last, with the pathetic politeness of small boys, he asks a very large woman to dance with him : " What a hot body she had, and what sticks of legs, they wouldn't go any- where he put them ; he clutched tighter, seeing nothing but a glittering buckle and pink georgette in front of his nose, feeling the tower of pink strength above him." Miss Blumen- feld has the knack of grasping the essential factors in other people's misery. In one story she makes us aware of the helpless irritability of a baby, in another of a young bride's resentment at becoming public property for weeks before her -own wedding, in another of the tragedy of a cook who buys shoes that are too small and too expensive for her. There is great integrity, economy and wisdom in each of these short sketches, and every one of them will repay a second reading.