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Flight into Camden by David Storey
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Flight into Camden (1961)

by David Storey

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I couldn’t remember, just fifty odd pages into this book, whether I did manage to read all of it the last time I took it up. No doubt I felt the same unwillingness to suspend disbelief as I was feeling at that moment. The totally credible Arthur Machin of ‘This Sporting Life’ is replaced by our Margaret, someone I find pretty unconvincing. At the moment she finds herself attracted to someone some years older than her, a man whom her brother has said is married. He’d told her earlier that he wasn’t married and yet she still hasn’t asked him this again after what her brother said. Instead when she sees the shrapnel scars on his back when sunbathing, we get ‘I wanted to know intensely if he had suffered’. She sounds a really naïve woman, falling for a man who seems to have only a peripheral interest in her. Earlier, when Margaret had criticised him for laughing at a poetry reading he’d taken her too, they ‘gazed bitterly at one another’ but he said ‘Ah well, I don’t suppose it’ll stop me seeing you again’. And then, coming back on the train from their outing to the ponds, we find ‘he pressed against me as the track straightened’ and learn a line or two later that ‘the birch woods were dark and smouldering’, no doubt inferring her (or their) emotions – but all rather heavy-handedly. In the end, I can’t understand why Storey chose to write as a woman in this book – she just doesn’t ring true to me.

Later in the book Margaret still failed to capture me at all, someone not wanting to know anything about Howarth’s children yet having deep emotions, such as those for her father: ‘I longed for him. I wanted him. I wanted him to talk to me’. I guess that today all these social issues about respectability and marriage have changed a lot so the endless talk about their situation quickly became tedious to me. One moment Margaret or Howarth have one emotion and the next the opposite extreme. I doubt even if I would have enjoyed this book when Storey wrote it in 1960, apparently in just three weeks. That it hasn’t survivd with any popularity today perhaps suggests that all the accolades it got then were more an echo of what ‘The Sporting Life’ deserved, rather than something intrinsically valuable about the novel. Yes, Storey does, to an extent, give us a woman seeking the liberation which was to arrive in England just a few years later, but the wringing of the fingers was just too much. ( )
  evening | Dec 28, 2013 |
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