THE ENCHANTED by Martin Flavin


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Journey in the Dark won both the Harper and the Pulitzer prizes for Martin Flavin. Prior to that his Mr. Littlejohn was one of those word-of-mouth best sellers, over a long period. Now comes The Enchanted, which is just as sharply individual a book and as different from the other two, as they were from each other. The only book to which I felt any basis of similarity was Richard Hughes' Innocent Voyage- or High Wind in Jamaica, if you choose, without the bitterness that made one feel that Hughes didn't really like children, even though he wrote about them so searchingly. Martin Flavin has written a fascinating book, with an elusive and eerie quality which stems from his convincing identification of his imagination with the fantasy world in which his little band of Spanish refugee children kept themselves from being swallowed up by the horrors that life handed out to them. First, a kind of peonage on a French farm, where the farmer's wife kept them in rags, half starved, when she was disappointed in not getting work out of them to the degree she'd counted on; then, a mad journey into the maws of war, Le Havre under attack, and escape by a fluke, as their escort, a priest, pushed them onto a shabby freighter departing in panic from death harbor; next, as passengers barely acknowledged, bound for the West Indies, only to find themselves sole survivors abandoned on a part of a shattered vessel, target of a U-boat; rescued by a one-legged African who tried vainly to establish some link of understanding with his charges on the hell-boat which the children saw as a fairy ship because of its strange rigging and its stranger crew. Storm and violence -- death and shipwreck -- and the children with their odd guardian find themselves modern Robinson Crusoes on a tropical beach, with a jungle shutting them off from the world. There- in Garden of Eden simplicity the children grow out of childhood. Martin Flavin sustains the note of unreality, while drawing in his characters in sharp outline, the undertones and overtones suggested rather than emphasized, so that one is caught into the web of their dreams, their rationalizations- even to the point of accepting as inevitable the fading of the one into the other at the end. The book has a magic quality -- personally, I liked it better than anything else he has done. But it's a book that should be read to be sold; it's not everyone's meat. Martin Flavin's name will catch attention- but it is Flavin in a new vein.

Pub Date: May 21st, 1947
Publisher: Harper