HAPPY LAND by MacKinlay Kantor


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All the ingredients for the perfect quickie -- a slim book (no bigger than Mr. Chips or The Snow Goose, for which markets it is a candidate), made to measure with all the ingredients, --good American-way-of-life-in-a-small-town flavor, sentiment unashamed and not too sticky, and a plausible thread of story set in a fantasy frame. Personally, though I confess that the machinery was obvious, I found tears near the surface as I read. The unaware will find it moving, and aptly timed. For here is a story of another small family broken by the war, an only son, dead, and parents grieving, a father embittered, feeling him boy's life was wasted, a mother, saddened, but knowing life must go on. Then comes the shade of his grandfather, a friendly, warm-hearted ghost, who takes Law Marsh firmly in hand, leading back through the landmarks that marked his boy's full life, making him see that here was an America that must go on, though the price be high. It is the old Christmas Carol technique, though Law Marsh was no Scrooge. And at the end, back on the job, another window to life is opened. Very saleable -- an excellent plus sale item, but in the long haul it hasn't the spiritual life of The Snow Goose (though it will touch some readers who were not reached by that), nor has it the deep roots of tradition and nostalgia in the character of its central figure that make Mr. Chips a symbol. Watch and check it for a big turnover.

Pub Date: Jan. 15th, 1942
Publisher: Coward, McCann