SPELLA HO by H. E. Bates


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H. E. Bates has risen to heights in his short story technique that leads one to hope and expect a great deal from him. For that reason, this, his longest work, is subject to a more critical approach than if he were less acclaimed. One must acknowledge that Spella Ho is a disappointment. It is the life portrait of Bruno Shadbolt, born to poverty, with a consumptive mother and a drunken father, and determined early in life to succeed in two ways -- women and money. He is brutish, ugly, sensual, but has inordinate will power and determination. The book falls into sections according to his women, with his business ventures as accompaniment. He goes from leather to gas to real estate to hotel, finally to steel and iron -- and makes a fortune in each. But his is a life devoid of real emotional values, and his old age is barren and desolate. Here and there are memorable scenes -- Bates is at his best in vivid word pictures, vignettes of life and of nature. But there is no sense of continuity and development to the book or the characters, there is no increase or decrease of tempo, the characters live at second hand, Bruno does not evolve, in spite of his experiences, his love affairs are unconvincing. It is slow reading, though not dull, but when all is said and done, the book leaves no impress. Bates is an artist in small compass. Perhaps his is not a gift for a large canvas...The publishers are doing a big promotional and advertising campaign, so the book will be launched with their cooperation. Watch it!

Pub Date: Oct. 24th, 1938
Publisher: Little, Brown