UNDER THE SKIN by Nina Bawden
Kirkus Star


Email this review


Nina Bawden's accomplished, abrasive, amusing book is concerned with race. We call it the Negro problem; the British refer to it as the Black Threat; but when it comes right down to it attitudes in Birmingham, Alabama, or Birmingham, England, are pretty much the same. The primary point made here, in a small book dealing with a big issue, is that prejudice is a question of feeling, not intellectual conviction. Tom Grant, and his wife, Louise, have many convictions--Liberal, and also the right kind of guilt feelings. After Tom spends some time in a monoracial community in Kenya, he invites handsome, sunny Jay Nbola, who has been given a Government grant, to stay with them in England. Jay's ingenuous delight on his arrival is truly touching, but there are all kinds of awkward moments with various members of Louise's family--particularly her brother, Reggie, a portentous, nastily prurient sort whose 17-year-old daughter is overtly infatuated with their guest. Discomfitures lead to doubts and then to betrayals in which they are all implicated; even Tom, who refuses to lower himself to the cliche catchwords of discrimination or to the residual fear which is the premise of Miss Bawden's book (""Isn't sex supposed to be at the bottom of all colour feelings?""). This is of course an infra dig argument we have attempted to rule out of the controversy here, but then it is not as yet a ""real battle"" in England, only a ""question of pinpricks."" Regardless, this drawing room demonstration is shrewdly, sympathetically observed and Miss Bawden's handling is full of incidental felicities--taste, humor and intelligence.

Publisher: Harpar & Row