I AT THE KEYHOLE by Colin Middleton Murry
Kirkus Star


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Colin Middleton Murry is the son of John Middleton Murry whom we remember as the dour and often absent figure in Katherine Mansfield's life and death. Here too he is often not present since in his own impossible need to be loved, and deleterious marriage later to a still more impossible woman, he pursued a policy of avoidance particularly toward his children. Only much later toward the end of the childhood so well noticed and remembered here was a reciprocal feeling of trust between father and son tacitly acknowledged. Shortly after Katherine's death, John married Violet who finally managed to become the romantic equivalent of her predecessor by contracting tuberculosis and gratefully dying after the birth of Colin, their second child. Then John forthwith married Betty, a local farmer's daughter who perpetuated a ten year ""war of attrition"" and aggression against him and his two children, while producing her own. Colin's father, always the disappointed dreamer/idealist, tried to Fred happiness elsewhere -- in his liberalism (""pissy pacifist"" according to Betty) and with another woman. Certainly half of this book, however, is devoted to Colin's childhood at Larling, their physically lovely home place, or at the shore with dismal grandparents, or away at a public school which was typical in its annals of abuse and self-abuse. Colin, although a very frail infant, survived it all resiliently and found himself as well as his father at the end of the route. . . . A biography with many points of interest beyond the precarious relationships in a house divided where young Colin, keyhole-watching, eavesdropping, and diary-reading, enlists considerable sympathetic interest as does the book -- a throwback to a time which seems much longer ago although it is still fresh on every page.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1974
Publisher: Stein & Day