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A short sojourn among London anthropologists in their lighter moments would scarcely warrant Pope's further thesis that ""the proper study of mankind is man"". This is ostensibly a comedy of manners; the book offers a large cast of characters whom we meet through Catherine Oliphant, who is having an affair with Tom Mallow (at the moment doing field work in Africa). The scene is a sherry party celebrating the opening of a new library. There are present the powers of the School of Anthropology, and in particular three students,- Digby and Mark, who know Catherine, and Deidre, who is to postpone meeting her until the return of Tom from Africa to write his thesis. Then Deidre meets him and falls in love, and the menage that Catherine and Tom have comfortably reestablished, is broken up by Deidre's intrusion. Tom, who seems to treat his women with an all-encompassing love, makes no distinction between them -- and ultimately bows out, with his death in Africa. Peripheral to the triangle romance are the social pretensions of Deidre's all too proper family and their ex-Colonial service neighbor, whose attitudes throw into relief the scientifically geared circle. As a study of British tribal mores this has its moments, but the satire- if such it is- is hardly successful enough to give purpose to its events. Compared with Angus Wilson's Anglo-Saxon Attitudes, for instance, it seems flat and unprofitable.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1957
ISBN: 1559213884
Publisher: Vanguard