Really choice humorous novels are so very rare that it is a singular pleasure to discover two in rapid succession. One is The Tunnel of Love (Little, Brown, $3.50) by Peter De Vries; the other Under the Net (Viking, $3.50) by Iris Murdoch.
Set in the “psychosomatic belt" of Connecticut, Mr. De Vries’s story is a comedy of “Eastern Commuting Culture" with a Sophoclean wind-up climaxed by a happy twist. The plot has to do with the efforts of the Pooles to adopt a baby and with the impudent misconduct of Angie Poole — a gentleman who has a flair for the fancier turns of life and no sense of the rudiments such as earning a dollar.
The Tunnel of Love is an unqualified delight; and a shrewd sense of life’s realities glints through the overtones of farce.
Under the Net is a picaresque tale of the adventures of a London literary hack, an engaging parasite whose code is m part peculiarly off-center and in part gentlemanly to the point of being quixotic. The raffish characters and the agilatcd plot abounding in burlesque are delighlfully original; and the style, too, has an accent all its own.
The autobiography of Clement R. Attlee brings us an insider’s history of English politics since the First World War from the perspective of the Labor Party. As It Happened (Viking, $5.00) is a perfect reflection of its author’s public personality. Completely colorless and unimaginative, completely without style, the book manages to make a favorable impression on the sympathetic reader probably for much the same reasons as those which have endeared Clem Attlee to the British voters. Through a thick curtain of modesty, one glimpses a thoroughly deceit man; a down-to-earth idealist; a statesman whose sometimes outspoken verdicts on men and events show that there are an astute mind and a resolute will behind the good gray façade.
The Struggle for Indochina (Stanford University Press, $5.00) by Ellen J. Hammer is a comprehensive, well-written research job which could not be timelier. As political appraisal, however, it is weakened by the fact that the author—while alert to the menace of Communism — betrays the unbendingly anti-French, anti-colonialism bias of the old-fashioned doctrinaire liberal.
Readers of this magazine who enjoyed the extracts from Charles A. Fenton’s The Apprenticeship of Ernest Hemingway (Farrar, Straus & Young, $5.00) will, I think, find the entire story absorbing and enlightening. It is refreshing to recapture the image of Hemingway before he became a character out of Hemingway.