NOW, GOD BE THANKED by John Masters
Kirkus Star


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Masters successfully broadjumps the gap between adventure novelist (Bhowani Junction, Himalayan Concerto) to straightforward saga-writer in this first volume of a WW I trilogy to be entitled Loss of Day. Stretching from three weeks before the War begins to Christmastide 1915, this is happily no mere exercise in Woukian giganticism: Masters balances large-scale effects of historical forces working themselves out with the strong tragic thrum of the war-verse of Rupert Brooke, a resounding sadness that sings through close observation of the novel's four leading families. At the center are the financially troubled Rowlands, whose automotive empire is at a crisis point while domestic brouhahas bubble: daughter-in-law Fiona wants to leave her husband Quentin for a self-absorbed Scottish painter; son Tom is a commander in the Royal Navy and so tormented by homosexuality that he attempts suicide in the North Atlantic; granddaughter Naomi is an insufferable suffragette; and young Stella gives her virginity to a wounded captain rather than to her American fianc‚ Johnny Merritt, a well-heeled Harvard graduate who wants to effect a merger of the Rowland Motor Company with U.S. capital. Revolving around these classy folks are low-status socialists, poachers, and poets-and also the Stratton family: two brothers who are the Rowlands' production-managers (they must go off, doomed to Flanders fields) and a sister who marries an unscrupulous profiteer. As the War progresses we leap all over England, France, and the North Atlantic, meeting 40 or 50 characters, and being carried along well enough by Masters' unoriginal but solidly managed epic. A worthy contender (though not as smooth as The Passing Bells, p. 84) for the Anglo-saga audience--like watching 34 nonstop episodes of Upstairs, Downstairs while aware that at least 68 more are coming.

Pub Date: June 4th, 1979
Publisher: McGraw-Hill