Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

An Inspector Calls (Heinemann Plays For…

An Inspector Calls (Heinemann Plays For 14-16 ) (original 1945; edition 1992)

by J.B. Priestley, Tim Bezant (Introduction)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5231019,336 (3.5)17
Title:An Inspector Calls (Heinemann Plays For 14-16 )
Authors:J.B. Priestley
Other authors:Tim Bezant (Introduction)
Info:Heinemann (1992), Paperback, 81 pages
Collections:Read but unowned

Work details

An Inspector Calls by J. B. Priestley (1945)



Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 17 mentions

English (8)  Swedish (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (10)
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
Review to come. ( )
  LaMala | Jun 7, 2015 |
I saw this performed some years ago with Julian Glover playing Arthur Birling. Star Wars fans will know who I mean. For everyone else, he's the man who chooses poorly at the end of Indiana Jones. At the start you watched the family at the table through the windows of their house and when the Inspector arrived the whole set opened out.

For everything that you lose through just reading the script, you gain in the time you have to pause and consider the implications of what's going on. This is not a play beloved of the Tories. It's about guilt and responsibility. According to the introduction, critics at the time were confused as to exactly what the Inspector was. They haven't been reading their Aeschylus. He is The Furies, displaced in time. Anachronistic it may be, but you'll notice the play obeys dramatic unity. ( )
  Lukerik | May 15, 2015 |
Great social comment with a twist at the end. ( )
1 vote bullfinch | Mar 14, 2015 |
An Inspector Calls was not something I had to read in high school or college. Indeed, when I was browsing the children's/young adult audio books section at my local library I wondered why there would be a SmartPass edition of what I assumed would be a British mystery.

The social and historical background information, as well as the short biography of the author, was welcome (even if the dialogue between the 'PassMaster' and 'Will' sometimes made me roll my eyes). I thought the definition given for 'ghoul' was too simplistic, but it did for the purpose of the play.

As for the play itself, I wish I could say that its message is not as relevant today as when it was written. Certainly the Inspector's warning can be seen played out on the nightly news. What happens next is left to our imaginations, but I rather enjoyed imagining some of it. This is a full-cast audio book. I definitely recommend it.

If you would prefer to hear the play by itself first, skip ahead to CD four.

For the curious, Ms. Bowes played Sheila, Mr. Crowe played Priestly, Ms. Gallimore played Mrs. Birling, Mr. Hardiman played Mr. Birling, Mr. Kelham played Eric, Mr. Lindford played Gerald, Mr. Hawksworth played Will, Mr. Thorpe played the Inspector, and Ms. Walker played the PassMaster. ( )
  JalenV | Aug 20, 2014 |
The proscenium stage has a romance of its own. You, the spectator, is actually a Peeping Tom, staring into the lives of total strangers through the invisible fourth wall. And what lives! For on the stage, time and space are usually compressed or telescoped according to the whims and fancies of the playwright. Passions are exaggerated on purpose, and action proceeds at an unbelievable pace; all the while retaining the semblance of normality (this is not essential for an arena stage, where the unreality of the situation is accepted by the audience from the start). The denouement is usually explosive, and you leave the theatre emotionally drained.

J. B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls uses the advantages (and limitations) of the proscenium stage to the maximum extent possible: to produce a play which is a very good mystery (in the Agatha Christie tradition), a social statement (very much like Ibsen) and a final twist which takes it into the realm of fantasy. I read the play, then watched the BBC adaptation… you have to see it performed to appreciate the power packed into ninety minutes of stage-time.

The Birlings (the industrialist Arthur Birling, his wife Sybil, daughter Sheila and son Eric) are having a quiet little dinner at their home to celebrate Sheila’s engagement to Gerald Croft, son of Sir George and Lady Croft. Gerald is also present. For Arthur Birling, the occasion is doubly joyful, as Birling and Company are the less powerful competitors of Crofts Limited, and the marriage will mean a profitable business deal as well as a social coup d’état. It is the pre-World War I era, and Birling is acutely consciousness of his social backwardness-something he is trying hard to rectify through his financial and political clout. He has been rather successful as he hints to Gerald, because a knighthood is on the way.

Into this haven of bourgeois comfort and security walks in Inspector Goole, unannounced, and goes about destroying it piece by piece. He is apparently there to conduct an enquiry into the suicide of a girl, Eva Smith, who has been admitted into the infirmary after drinking disinfectant. According to the inspector, the Birlings have a hand in the girl’s death. Initially Birling is haughty and superior; being still “on the bench” and a friend of Chief Constable Colonel Roberts, he can afford to be short with a mere inspector. Goole, however, goes about his business ruthlessly and ultimately succeeds in grinding them down, one by one.

It comes out that the girl has been mistreated by all of them. Birling initially fired her from his factory for organising a strike; Sheila got her dismissed from her subsequent job at a dress shop out of pure jealousy and Gerald “kept” her for a year at a friend’s flat, after picking her up from a bar which she was frequenting in her desperation. This last revelation leads to Sheila breaking off her engagement, and Gerald goes out to be alone for a while. But the Birling’s evening of woe is far from over.

Inspector Goole establishes that a couple of weeks before, Eva Smith had approached Mrs. Birling in her capacity of the chairman of a charitable society. She was pregnant and in desperate need of assistance. Initially she had lied that she was a married woman and that her name was Birling (!); however, the truth soon came out that the baby was out of wedlock. Eva did not want to approach her lover because he was an immature boy who is an alcoholic and had stolen money to support her. Mrs. Birling, however, was adamant that the baby’s father must be made solely responsible, and succeeded to influence the society to turn her out without a penny.

However much the inspector bullies her, Mrs. Birling is adamant – now that the woman has committed suicide, her lover must be dealt with very severely. Then Goole drops his final bomb: the culprit is none other than Eric, her son, an accusation which the young man accepts. He also admits stealing money from his father’s firm.

The family is in a total shambles now: a son who has committed adultery and theft, a daughter whose engagement has ended the same day it started and a father in the hope of a knighthood, faced with public scandal and disgrace. Eric is almost ready to murder his mother, because as he says, she is “responsible for the death of her own grandchild”. It is at this point that the inspector begins to behave very peculiarly. After rubbing in the fact that they all have got blood on their hands, he makes this speech and leaves.

One Eva Smith has gone… but there are millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths still left with us, with their lives, their hopes and fears, their suffering and chance of happiness, all intertwined with our lives, with what we think and say and do. We don’t live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other. And I tell you that the time will soon come when if men do not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish. We don’t live alone. Good night.

It is into the situation that Gerald comes back, and he comes with some welcome information – he has just confirmed that there is no Inspector Goole in the police department! With cold logic, he establishes that they have no reason to believe that the girl in each of the incidents mentioned by Goole is the same one – true, he produced a photograph, but it was shown to each of them individually. The hoax is confirmed when they call the infirmary and confirm that there has been no suicide that night.

It is time for a pat on the back for Gerald, a sigh of relief from Mrs. And Mr. Birling, and a jolly round of drinks. Sheila and Eric, though initially reluctant to return to “normalcy” are on the way to being persuaded when the phone rings.
It is from the infirmary. A girl has just died on the way there after drinking disinfectant, and a policeman is on the way to question them… and the curtain descends.


The depth of the play is truly amazing. Only when we encounter the conversation again can we understand its depth, and how cleverly it is constructed. The story takes off smoothly from a drawing room farce to a darkly philosophical tragicomedy, which is sure to draw the viewers into the middle of it without them noticing: and to leave them drained at the end.

Highly recommended.
( )
  Nandakishore_Varma | Sep 28, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review

» Add other authors (33 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
J. B. Priestleyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bowes, Saracast membersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Crowe, Bencast membersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gallimore, Patcast membersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hardiman, Terrencecast membersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hawksworth, Willcast membersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kelham, Christophercast membersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lindford, Petercast membersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lomas, JonathanCommentary authorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maine, GilCommentary authorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Myers, HarryMusicsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Reeves, MikeCommentary authorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sheckels, JenCover & insert designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
SmartPassPost-productionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thorpe, Davidcast membersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Viner, JoolsProducersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Viner, PhilDirector & cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Walker, Joancast membersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
First words
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Haiku summary

No descriptions found.

A new BBC Radio production of J. B. Priestley's famous play, considered to be a classic of 20th-century theatre. The Birling family are spending a happy evening celebrating the engagement of Sheila Birling to Gerald Croft - a marriage that will result in the merging of two successful local businesses. Yet, just when everything seems to be going so well, they receive a surprise visit from an Inspector Goole who is investigating the suicide of a young girl. As the Inspector reveals more about the circumstances that led to the death of Eva Smith, each member of the family comes under the spotlight, and questions of guilt and responsibility are raised...… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
2 avail.3 pay3 pay

Popular covers


Average: (3.5)
1 4
1.5 1
2 17
2.5 3
3 27
3.5 8
4 42
4.5 3
5 20


An edition of this book was published by Audible.com.

See editions

Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

» Publisher information page

Recorded Books

An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.

» Publisher information page

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


Help/FAQs | About | Privacy/Terms | Blog | Store | Contact | LibraryThing.com | APIs | WikiThing | Common Knowledge | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | 99,721,072 books! | Top bar: Always visible