Another entry in the Harper Short Novel Series (see King above): Sillitoe covers very old ground with a delicacy of touch in...



Another entry in the Harper Short Novel Series (see King above): Sillitoe covers very old ground with a delicacy of touch in this story of a working-class boy in Nottingham who becomes the lover of a well-off older woman--with disastrous results. After his mother's death by cancer (his father ran off years before with a ""fancy woman""), young Peter Granby moves in with his grandmother and Len, her illiterate and mean-tempered ""man,"" and finds work as a factory laborer. Passing the factory one day (when Peter is 19), an old woman falls to the sidewalk, and, as she dies, Peter unthinkingly offers her what comfort he can. Some days later, Peter is called into the factory office, where well-dressed Eileen Farnsfield (she's 40) presses five pounds on him in gratitude for his kindness to her dying mother and tells him, ""If ever you need help from me, you've only to let me know."" As things would happen, Peter is soon kicked out of his grandmother's house after a fight with the tyrannical Len, and, worse, is beaten near to death by ruffians after a brief pub altercation. Helpless and homeless, he manages to call Eileen Farnsfield, who picks him up in her car, takes him to her plush home in Mapperley, nurses him toward recovery, and, conveniently for the narrative, reveals that for two years she's been a widow. Peter takes up residence in a ""studio hut"" in the backyard, does gardening and repair work for Eileen, as well as maintenance work on the summer bungalows she owns on the seacoast--in one of which the couple's sexual consummation finally occurs. Their Lady Chatterley-esque affair continues, but quarrels arise, questions of class awareness and injured pride begin to surface in Peter, and, when he finds Eileen in bed with her snobbish and upscale accountant, there's an explosion that brings grief not to be privileged, upper, class parties, but only to the mined, and yet somehow inwardly resourceful, Peter. A melodrama of the class barrier, but told with Sillitoe's fine ear and eye for the everyday sights and sounds of England, and with an unflinching sympathy for his characters, high class and low, that lets a reader easily forgive the creakings of the plot.

Pub Date: March 16, 1988


Page Count: -

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1988