SEVEN AGAINST REEVES
By Richard Aldington
Heinemann. 7s. 6d.
Like Mr. Sinclair Lewis, Mr. Aldington is a serious novelist who does not find it incompatible with his literary dignity to take an occasional book off. In the present work he quite frankly adopts the English humorous tradition of there being no joke like an old one, and it is by gusto rather than originality or wit that he primarily seeks to draw his reader's enjoyment after his own.
Prosperous Mr. Reeves, just retiring from the City in anticipation of a leisured, placid elder age -- he dreams of a cottage in the country and poultry and a cow -- but thwarted by a snobbish extravagant wife and selfish superior children, is a figure familiar to us all in our reading, and quite often in our more actual lives; and Mr. Aldington puts him through his paces after a fashion whose most surprising feature is in fact its absence of surprise. The servants thrust him out of his own house, the gardener scorns him in his own suburban garden, and he is forced by dominating Mrs. Reeves to accompany her to allegedly "arty" cocktail, studio and week-end gatherings where he meets the inevitable selection of painters, pianists and literary gentlemen, amongst whom Ansie Hawksneetch, who "picked up a pit of a living by introducing snob-conscious bourgeois to social fringers -- for a small fee," is distinguished only as the principal and most persistent parasite. He also succeeds in striking up a friendship with the more human Margel Stone, but that episode is too soon bludgeoned by Mrs. Reeves in one of the book's funnier scenes.
The family travels abroad, first to Venice and then to Cannes, and in both places poor Mr. Reeves is of course the complete fish out of water, while Mrs. Reeves falls for an illiterate title and the daughter for a smooth young Southerner described as "a sort of materialized tango." Ansie also turns up at Cannes, and the "milking" process becomes really vehement, but Monte Carlo proves the last straw which makes the worm turn and, striving to be man, bite back.
Even the end, though, runs true to pattern, and, last as first, it is the vitality of the writing -- what the sweep in "Busman's Honeymoon" termed "the power behind the rods" -- that holds the attention. The title itself scarcely suggests subtlety; but for those who are, like Mr. Aldington himself, on holiday, here is fun, easily recognizable as such, and not too pointed satire.