STRANGER AND BROTHER: A Portrait of C. P. Snow by Philip Show

STRANGER AND BROTHER: A Portrait of C. P. Snow

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Affectionate reminiscences of the late Lord Show by his younger brother: primarily for devotees of the Strangers and Brothers series of novels, who will find many of the real-life models for Snow's characters identified here. The younger Show is best in the first chapters, sketching in the family's lower-middle-class Leicester background (father was an underpaid church organist)--though here, as throughout, there's more about the Show clan's enthusiasm for cricket than most US readers would like. Brilliant young C. P.--called ""Percy"" until wife Pamela Hansford Johnson insisted on ""Charles""--was therefore ""oecasionally angry, always hungry and openly aspiring""; he pursued science because a scholarship was unavailable in the arts (the happenstance source of his ""Two Cultures"" preoccupation); only when elected a Fellow at Oxford could he relax--and turn, ambitiously, to fiction. During WW II Philip was in Fiji and received letters from C. P., reprinted here, revealing: his pessimism (""Our world really died for good in the summer of 1936""), his problematic love-affairs and unproblematic non-love affairs (""I sent for Peggy from Birmingham and had a distinctly satisfactory champagnerous Edwardian sort of night""); his churning quest for major acclaim. And subsequent chapters, after C. P.'s late-in-life marriage, deal with his expanding fame, his stage-adaptation collaborations, his political career (in Harold Wilson's government), his literary feuds, his yearning for the Nobel Prize, his health problems, his favorite sayings and breakfasts. . . and, matter-of-factly, his extramarital affair with secretary Anne Seagrim. (""The existence of this relationship did not bring about any estrangement between Charles and Pam, and indeed Para was unaware of it."") Not entirely without less-than-flattering revelations, then, but a genial, unshaped portrait by and large--for Snow-ites and perhaps a few other dedicated Anglophiles.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1983
Publisher: Scribners