THE SPOILT CITY by Olivia Manning


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This is the second volume (The Great Fortune- 1961) in Olivia Manning's cumulatively impressive trilogy of the death of Bucharest and the once elegant, now decadent, middle European society which defaulted and crumbled with it. While the sequel is designed to be read independently of the first, most of the characters of the earlier book reappear and maintain the continuity:- particularly Harriet and Guy Pringle,-Harriet increasingly uneasy in both her marriage and their stay in Bucharest; Guy, whose guileless charm is a form of weakness and whose idealism a kind of escapism. The professional parasite, Prince Yakimov, is still scrounging off them and they have adopted a young deserter, Sasha. The mood of the city is precarious and there are minatory rumors, arrests, defections, along with the demonstrations, broadcasts, raids and finally revolution. Still the small British set seems ludicrously engaged in beaming ""cultural propaganda"" from this insular outpost; where the first book ended with their production of Troilus and Cressida, now they import a Professor Lord Pinkrose to deliver a few lectures on English poetry. One by one most of their acquaintances leave the ""spoilt city"" and only Guy is obstinately determined to stay on after Harriet and Sasha precede him to Athens where presumably the third book will begin... Miss Manning's work has much to recommed it; the range of its disintergrating society achieved through small, comic, horrifying incidents and the commonplaces of a life which goes on in the face of disaster; the subtlety and versatility of her characterization; her self-possessed command of her material. But the reader, however admiring, is seldom more than a spectator.

Pub Date: Nov. 9th, 1962
Publisher: Doubleday