by David Storey
Harper & Row, $10.00
Colin Saville, the hero of David Storey’s sixth and most ambitious novel, is representative of that ubiquitous figure in modern British writing, the coal miner’s son who makes good. Born in the shadow of a much-loved brother’s death, he is defined in childhood by the grief and fierce ambition of his parents. A silent, sensitive boy, Colin follows the traditional road to freedom from the pit: he wins a scholarship, and begins to learn of larger possibilities than those village life affords.
But the adult Colin Saville is caught in a familiar dilemma. Having taken his parents’ advice, he finds himself educated out of his class though still emotionally (and financially—he must now support his younger brothers) tied to it. His middle-class friends from school drift away or betray him; his working-class friends and family regard him as a traitor; even his mistress accuses him, saying, “You don’t really belong to anything. . . . You’re not really anything. You don’t belong to any class, since you live with one class, respond like another, and feel attachments to none.” Cut off from everyone who might help him establish a place in the world, Colin turns to his kinship with the older brother who died, and it is in his search for that elusive, unruly character that he gradually discovers what he himself must be.
The story is hardly new, but Saville is a compelling book. A naturalistic study of growth and identity, it draws its exceptional power from the accuracy of its finely etched details and the unarguable reality of its characters and situations. David Storey is best known in this country for his award-winning plays; the lucid prose and careful insights of Saville should confirm his reputation as a fine novelist as well.
E. S. Duvall