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An odd, off-the-beaten track performance, this, not to be bracketed with anything else Cronin has done. And not a book that will either enhance or detract from his reputation. The story is rather unusual, not wholly convincing; the characters are somewhat wooden. And yet there is a holding quality to the telling, even if at the close there is a sense of bafflement. Harrington Brande, Consul, feels himself unappreciated, side-tracked beneath his just desserts, when he is sent to a minor port of Spain- and he takes out his frustrations by intensified superiority towards his underlings, intensified possessiveness and dominance over his frail nine-year old son, Nicholas. When he discovers, through the spying of his house man, Garcia, that Nicholas has struck up a friendship with the Spanish gardener, Pedro, a youth who is hero of the town's pelota fans, the Consul cannot bear the pangs of jealousy, and determines to punish Pedro. Garcia, resentful of Nicholas' terror of his sly viciousness, plants stolen goods on Pedro and the Consul, who has already attempted to break up the friendship, seizes the opportunity, presses charge- and is eventually responsible for Pedro's death. A strange three-cornered emotional situation, twisted out of normal tracks by petty minds and suspicious depravity, the solution comes through tragedy which snaps the bonds between father and son, and Nicholas, almost overnight asserts himself, both in relation to his estranged mother and his own right to be himself. The setting- a sleepy seaport with alluring back country; the situation, fraught with possibilities only half explored; the march of the story --combines to hold reader interest although there is a distinct sense of anticlimax as the story ends.

Pub Date: Sept. 7th, 1950
Publisher: Little, Brown