Dedicated to classics and hits.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Loving (novel)(1945) by Henry Green

Loving (novel)(1945)
by Henry Green

  I think Loving, the 1945 novel written by English novelist Henry Green, is his big hit.  The library copy is part of a single volume containing three novels by Green, Loving, Living (1929) and Party Going (1939).   Henry Green is what you call an "authors author," favored by those who write and read for a living.  For example, the introduction to this volume is written by John Updike, who claims that Green "taught him how to write."

 All of his books are quiet, well observed "slices of life" about English people, even this book, which is actually set in Ireland.  The staff of a castle owned by a member of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy, and the dialogue, variously between members of the staff and the staff and the resident family (mother, grandson, grandson's wife)- makes it clear that there is an "us" of protestant house and staff and the catholic "other."  The very slight plot is set into motion by the arrival of an insurance agent investigating a report of a missing ring.  The fact that the initials of his firm are "I.R.A" spur a lengthy discussion about the dangers of the native Irish to the house and its staff.

  Green manage to introduce larger issues about society within Loving that contribute to its enduring popularity.   It is the combining of larger issues within a smaller frame of personal relationships that makes him different from prior novelists.  One of the major literary trends of the mid to late 20th century is miniaturist, with novelists focusing intently on a very small field of action, with few characters and little plot.  Green is perhaps the first novelist to really work this area over the course of the career, and Loving is the best example of his technique, the work of a mature writer at the top of his game.

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