The Sun Is My Undoing

By Marguerite SteenVIKING
HERE are a half million words about one Matthew Flood, an Englishman of Bristol, and the effects of his deeds and misdeeds upon three generations of a family. The 1176 pages comprise four novels and three novelettes, with settings in Bristol, on a sailing ship, on the African Gold Coast, in Cuba, in Spain. The theme which holds this mass of always interesting narrative together is found in the influence upon other lives of Matthew’s unorthodox personality or in the slave trade and the relations of the whites and blacks which it produced. Like other novels of inordinate length written in recent years, this one has neither the epical power its size seems to demand nor the cutting edge a short novel can have. The best part is the scenes in Cuba about the mulatto girl Maria Cayetuña in the Convent of Santa Clara; the worst the conclusion, in which the author’s invention no doubt fatigued — takes refuge in melodrama. Among the small army of characters, the Spaniards and mixed breeds are most persuasive. The English, excepting one or two women, rather oddly seem to be synthetic products. The reader is nevertheless certain to be caught and held by the sustained talent shown in carrying so massive a story along so clearly, and the invention that was able to make it so continuously absorbing as story.
R. M. G.