THE SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST by Pamela Hansford Johnson
Kirkus Star


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To be presented, justifiably, as Pamela Hansford Johnson's major novel, and with none of the abrasive aridity of some of her earlier books--indeed this is a long and large narrative not only of the years from before World War II to the present but also of the relationships of a fixed circle of friends. Those who have admired Miss Johnson for her unwavering eye and uncompromising intelligence, will also find here a strong and perhaps unexpected emotional involvement throughout the shifting interchange of scenes, characters and events. Primarily Kit Mallings, a writer not only of great talent but personal charm who ""demanded and collected love"" successfully, not only from Alison, his first love, but also Polly and Davina, his later wives, and Jo Upjohn, his steadfast friend. (Jo, also tries to write, and at one point says that writers ""put several people into one person."" The reader who is informed will certainly relate Kit Mallings, in his boozy degringolade on the lecture circuit and his sudden death under the table, to Dylan Thomas. Then there's Jo, put upon by life and to an extent by an invalid mother and a spinster sister ready to settle for a ""wellspoken greengrocer""--Jo who falls in love with Alison, with others, with Davina who will marry Kit, and whose epitaph is as self-effacing as his life: Jo was very ""good at coming to terms with things."" And with people--as is Miss Johnson whose chronicle here is achieved through a great many continguous and complementary relationships. . . . It is a fine validation of the traditional novel as a substantive replica of life, expertly controlled and supremely sympathetic from beginning to end.

Pub Date: May 23rd, 1968
Publisher: Scribners