Email this review


An exposure of a ""monstrous fraud in philanthropy"" which is to warn to ""give to those you know"" follows the deterioration of Mrs. Bannister whose visit to her father's birthplace in Ireland introduces her to Esther Costello. A victim of massive shock when secretly hidden gunpowder from Sinn Fein days explodes, Esther for two years had existed, almost uncared for, in her sightless, silent world. Mrs. Bannister gets an early hint as to the financial response to her good deed aboard ship en route to the United States and after lengthy physical and psychological tests finds there is no cure for the child. A program for both of them leads to communication, talking with their hands, a lecture before a Convent group sets off an emotional spark -- and Mrs. Bannister does all right with her protege, but all the income does not go to help the blind. Charles, her discarded and dishonored husband, catches up with her and with threats and lies persudes her to turn Esther into big business on a world basis. The United States and England capitulate before Esther's young beauty and innocence and when, raped by Charles, her faculties are restored in shock, Esther is forced to further the swindle by appearing before the public in her old role as deaf, dumb and blind. Around the world and the Esther Costello Guild piles it up for the Bannisters and their commercial pimp, Lett, but New York and Boston appearances reveal the secret to young newspaperman Grant, who has fallen in love with Esther, who persuades her to tell her story for him to write -- and who loses her to the viciousness of Mrs. Bannister. Esther's death -- by suicide or by Mrs. Bannister? -- provides a new racket for the vultures.... Without the polished satire of a Waugh or the extravaganza of comedy, this shows the corruption of fat years, homage and acclaim, of the gold of good will turned into dross when a gold mine opens up and the perversions to which philanthropy is subject, in repertorial reality... Something of a right about face for the author of The Cruel Sea.

Pub Date: Sept. 21st, 1953
Publisher: Knopf