Email this review


From her first success, Peking , on to the present, Ann Bridge's novels have had their roots in her background of life as the wife of one of England's diplomats. Usually, however, while she has enriched her settings through intimate personal knowledge, she has broken free in her plots and characters. This time, however, if The Tightening String had been labelled biographical, nobody would question it. Though the story is told in the third person, by means of Mrs. Eynsham, a Counsellor's wife in the British legation in Budapest, one feels that Ann Bridge either experienced herself all that happened, or knew it at very close quarters. For here, blow by blow, is the story of Budapest from the end of May 1940 to the moment when the little segment of British and Dutch still remaining escaped to Russia through the narrowing neck of freedom. It is a holding tale of endurance and courage- sometimes foolhardiness- in the face of the inevitable, as, through the Hungarian Red Cross alone, supplies were routed to starving, freezing British POW's in German prison camps. Other sources were entangled in red tape and bureaucracy and the habit of assuming traditional open routes. Mrs. Eynsham, with a valiant group of assistants, managed to secure supplies, anywhere, everywhere they were available, to raise funds, to the machinery until the final shipments were released into Germany just as the German military might closed in on helpless Hungary. Only then was the diplomatic train laboriously shunted down the only remaining road to escape. Very British- full of detail of life going on at the edge of doom- openly critical of the shortcomings back home- this emerges with a fictional label on an authentic bit of Britain overseas. Good reading.

Pub Date: March 14th, 1962
Publisher: McGraw-Hill