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NOVELS of the DAY
DENIS MACKAIL'S HUMOUR IN ,
"THE SQUARE CIRCLE."
As a writer of humour Denis Mackall is cutting a wide swathe. In "The Square Circle" he gives what appears to be his most characteristic work-free from extravagance, not wildly hilarious, but his people real and comical; and most people are comical to the keen type of observer when you come to think
Here Is a bulky book dealing with all the small things of life and nature, and they come as fresh as the south wind. The Square Is one of those spaces in London that is some- times quadrilateral, but might be circular or oval, "and even three-sided or two-sided squares are not unknown." In the centre stands the Square garden, with an Iron fence around it. The "circle" Is the select com- pany, more or less acquainted, that lives In the houses of the Square, all well-to-do people who mostly go abroad for some months of the year, leaving their homes In charge of the butlers. The book confines itself entirely to the circle in Tiverton Square. We meet these people, in some cases being Introduced as they return from the Conti- nent. Mr. Justice Melhulsh lives In Number Ten. Mr. Aaronson, the solicitor, lives in Number Twenty-six. He is on the garden committee, of which Mr. Parkinson is chair- man. (The committee looks after the Square garden and has the giving out of keys to the contributors to Its upkeep.) The Brlstowes are In Number Twenty, the Nortons in Number Fourteen. Then there is that Miss Leggatt, who seems to see everybody and hear every- thing that goes on-she Is, we know, in every Square or "neighbourhood," even In this part
of the world.
On the 14th of October Lady Poley re- turned from the Isle of Wight . . .
Lady Poley's arrival was heralded, as al- ways, by a prolonged and gradual awaken- ing of her London home ... by dustings, scrubblngs, uncoverlngs, rehangings, a cres- cendo of anticipations which might remind one of a well-constructed overture. The title of the opera or drama in this case would clearly be "The Queen of Tiverton Square," with Lady Poley, of course, in the title role. . . . Strong supporting cast of elderly servants who have been In the queen's household establishment for years.
. . . The vast limousine rolls majes- tically to a standstill outside Number Six- teen. An Invisible standard flutters aloft on an Invisible flagstaff. . . . The whole atmosphere grows richer, the pace quickens, the Square becomes more of an organism whether it knows Lady Poley or not.
We get to know everybody, what they are doing, what they say, what they think. Walls are nothing to the circle in the Square. We become acquainted with these people as
though they were our own neighbours. The |
plot is slight, rather nebulous; but this is not the kind of story that requires a robust one. Mr. Bristowe is seen very often talk- ing to Miss Carpenter, who lives with her mother, and Mrs. Bristowe becomes Jealous; a side issue. Mrs. Gillinghom becomes the centre of a financial tangle brought about by Sir Herbert Llvewright (of Number Three)
and Mr. Aaronson. But the main considera- tion is the marriage of Veronica Norton to Captain Jerrold Inglis, of his Majesty's Gre- nadier Guards, who has three thousand ft year; and the love of her elder sister, Nico- lette, for a young man who has only three
The art In this book Is outstanding. Obser- vation, delineation, and dissection of human character and its varied dispositions, are fami- liarities, even commonplaces In life, and the author's skill Is displayed to an amazing length in the series of sketches written with never-faltering pen, drawn from a fund that seems inexhaustible. You recognise the foibles, the mannerisms, and peculiarities at once; they are familiar, common. But that per- haps Is the greatest gift of Nature herself that we have the faculty of so much enjoy- ment of the commonplace. Here they are so cleverly set out that you forget that you know them, and an enjoyable book Is to hand with which to open the new year. (Angus and Robertson.)
"THE BROKEN MELODY," BY
FREDERICK J. THWAITES.
Leaving out of consideration some impossi- bilities, the author of "The Broken Melody" provides a good story with Australian station life the basis. Ted Jenkins, of Buckingbong station, in the Riverina, sent to school in Sydney, develops the drug habit, and comes back to his father, Francis Jenkins, and Nel- lie Bryce, his youthful playmate, a failure. The stern parent, hurt that a son of his should have disgraced him, tells him to go, and the youth, taking his vlolincello with him, becomes one of Sydney's derelicts until he meeta with a girl, Carmol Blythe, and under her Influence divorces himself from drugs and goes to Thursday Island to seek restoration of health. There he meets a famous pianist on a holiday, Fay Le Bretton, who has been giving concerts in Australia. She pronounces him a player of talent, and takes him to London, where, as her protege, he becomes a triumphant success with his 'cello, and is soon on his way to make a fortune with which he returns to Australia and saves the old station home from passing to strangers, drought hav- ing played havoc with his father's affairs. Here the author works up his theme well. The son arrives to find his father dying. The new owner comes, and the revelation that it is the return of the prodigal, Is made when he plays the sweet old piece his father loved to hear him play, "The Broken Melody. This is a point of danger for a novelist, for it could easily become bathos, but the handling
Is artistic and successful.
Much may be found to criticise in this book from the literary standpoint-the construc- tion is Jerky, there are too many short chap- ters that destroy the concentratlve element necessary to grip the reader's attention, and the melodramatic sentimentalities are a trifle strained at times; but the scenes of station life, the train Journeys, the stat'on hands and country people, the drought and station fire and other incidentals are excellent, and In general the local colour Is Imparted in a way that makes It highly interesting, particularly as It Is varied with excursions to other climes and characterisations that lend a picturesque flavouring. As an Australian book it Is to be welcomed. (Published by the author, New South Wales Bookstall Co. distributors.)
"THE FOUR ARMOURERS," BY
The author of "The Six Proud Walkers" and "The Seven Sleepers" gives in this book an exciting tale of intrigue and desperate play for high stakes, full of thrilling motor races, waylaying, plot, and counter plot, the scene of which Is In Spain, the principal characters Englishmen, connected with the Secret Service and the League of Nations, and an American millionaire and his valiant daughter, with a mixed company of other nationalities playing the game from the opposing side. The "armourers" Is the term given to the players who, as manufacturers of armaments, are bid- ding and bluffing and occasionally resorting to desperate expedients in efforts to obtain a secret formula possessed by the widow of a famous chemist, which is potential of such terrible effects that war will be impossible if the League holds it. Julius P. Hazelrig, the American, Is determined that the formula shall be owned by the League If It costs him his for- tune. The Duke of Mendoza, Frau Schindler, and their colleagues are bent on gaining it for their own ends. Donna Concepción Sancho y Moralma, the beautiful widow of the chemist, plays with both sides, and is out to obtain the highest price. Granby, of the Secret Ser- vice, and Baxter, an official of the League, are the plotters in the chase equally determined that the League must have the terrible secret, and their adventures are hair-raising.
The story is written with great cunning, so that the reader, not knowing for a con- siderable part of the tale what it is all about, Is mystified and intrigued. You follow the nonchalant Granby and the perplexed Baxter in their adventures with breathless interest. Every now and again the situation seems to be Impossible, and it requires the skill of an accomplished writer of complicated plots to extricate Granby and his associates from their dangers. The races against time and the un- expected acts of the conspirators cannot be left. They are thrilling in the extreme. It is a book that once started must be finished, and as an example of constructive Ingenuity is of the best class. (Dymock's.)