The Bystander - Albert Guerard (French)
This is the kind of precarious endeavor in which the slightest misstep will cause all to collapse into absurdity. But Guerard succeeds – the book seems true and frightening. Everything hinges on the first two pages, in which a feeling must be imparted convincingly enough to support all that follows. Mysteriously, this sequence, which is presented simply, succeeds. From this beginning we’re able to make sense of the first person narrator’s delusions, his self-imposed debasement. The fault with the novel lies in fact that the narrator is rather repellent, so being in his mind and sharing his emotions gets to be grueling.
Christmas Party - Karl Wenclas
King calls this a “zeen novel” and it should be fairly judged by that standard. The prose is rough-edged, there’s a simplicity to the people and the scenes. This is not a sophisticated piece of writing. But the objective is to engage the reader, not to tax him. Overall Wenclas succeeds in looking under people’s facades, at their dreams and their needs (mostly for love and a sense of meaning to their lives).
Love’s Cross Currents - Algernon Swinburne
An epistolary novel, with all the limitations of that form. I got sick of the rarified tone, the use of French, the indulgence of people rambling on and on without anything happening. I had no interest in the fragile china dolls that populated this book. So, of course, I happily quit reading it.
Incline Our Hearts - A. N. Wilson
An English novel (very English) about a boy’s coming of age. It’s the first in a projected series, and it suffers from that – there’s a lot of stage setting for events that will follow. Although I enjoyed this I don’t feel any desire to read the rest of the novels.
Lovers of Their Time - William Trevor
Good collection, marked by Trevor’s compassion. Also notable is how he concentrates on old people, although he must have been only in his fifties when he wrote this. Trevor is entertaining and his work has substance. Still, no story was truly outstanding.