MISS JOHNSTON (whose Hanging Johnny many readers will remember) has in this second novel set herselt an exceedingly difficult task. It is that of writing a novel by and a novel about an imaginary author at the same time. Her plan is to tell the story of Michael M’Clane, interspersed with chapters of a novel he is writing, while he is living in Dublin during an invasion of Ireland. Both plots are engrossing. Her theme, which is illustrated by both, is the position of the artist in a world at war. Both Michael and the man about whom he is writing, Amiel Gilchrist, are men whose personal, spiritual life is more real and more important to them than their physical experience; and the interplay of motive and impulse between author and character is psychologically complex and subtle. There are times when the machinery bothers the reader a little and times when Michael’s novel strikes an obviously feminine note; but the entire book is written with great seriousness by one whose theme is very near her heart. The artist, as a man driven inexorably by powers from within, and beyond his control, is portrayed without extenuation but with rare understanding.
R. M. G.