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The Happy Prisoner by Monica Dickens
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The Happy Prisoner (1946)

by Monica Dickens

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1012177,212 (3.57)7

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So can you have a story remain interesting when the protagonist is confined to bed the entire time? Oh, yes you can. Monica Dickens is a master--insightful, witty, with a brilliant turn of phrase. The Happy Prisoner portrays the life of a family in rural England in WWII. Oliver is home from the war, an amputee with a fragile heart. His world is reduced to observing his feelings, his family, and his very professional, very private nurse. A delicious, quiet book with great integrity. ( )
  thesmellofbooks | Oct 28, 2018 |
A remarkable and very enjoyable portrait of a family after the Second World War, filtered through the eyes of Oliver, a war amputee returning home and becoming engrossed in the minute everyday dilemmas of his family. There are some outstading set pieces (the story of the moth opening the book, for example) and the book shows a fresh, almost irreverent perspective about the war (Oliver loses his leg looting onions for a stew). Structurally, it veers from fine and artistic solutions to narrative problems (the slow revelation of Oliver's problems, the parallel scenes of two women abandoning a party) to easier, more cliched devices (the fact that all the characters conveniently confess their thoughts to Oliver, the story of the evil stepmother that brings about the conclusion). It is nevertheless worth seeking out and should be brought back into print. ( )
2 vote MariaAlhambra | Sep 5, 2010 |
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Oliver North lies in a bed which has been specially constructed for him against the window of the room which once served as his father's study. He can look out upon the gardens of his mother's home in Shropshire, and across the ha-ha to the neighbouring fields of the farm which has been sublet to their diffident neighbour Fred, and where his elder sister Violet and his young American cousin Evelyn, who share a love of horses, spend as much time as they can. He is described as a prisoner because he is permanently confined to this bed, and the world he looks out upon is one he can no longer enter. Monica Dicken's story explores how he copes with his enforced idleness. Continued
 

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The moth, which had been clattering frantically inside his lampshade for the last ten minutes, suddenly dropped onto the open page of his book and lay there stunned, only a slight questing of the antennae showing that it was still alive.
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