Another Booker prize winner from the early days of the prize, 1974. This smallish and subtle novel is on the one hand, a fairly good novel, but also one that I am not certain is worthwhile of the prize. Maybe for the year, but it oddly split the prize with Nadine Gordimer’s The Conservationist, which is a weightier and more serious novel, but also one I liked less. Part of my thinking with these early days of prizes is that we have amazingly good writers in their primes not winning like Iris Murdoch, whose yearly offering is almost always better than the winners or hefty and amazing writers like JG Farrell and Paul Scott winning, deservedly. But we also have the waning careers of other writers.
I imagine Stanley Middleton, who wrote 45 novels, won’t be remembered much beyond this offering. This novel is about a 30ish year old man on holiday to the coast trying to figure out why his marriage has seemingly failed and what if anything there is to do about it. He spends the week avoiding his in-laws how have managed to track him down to persuade the couple to get back together to keep up appearances and to meet new friends and potential new lovers. The week starts off in church and ends up back in his own house talking to his separated wife trying to decide if it’s worth trying again. The novel is small in scope and serious in tone and pretty touching at times.