BIRTHDAY

Alan Sillitoe, Author . Flamingo $28 (249p) ISBN 978-0-00-710781-0

Sillitoe returns to the scene of his initial literary success in his latest effort, a nostalgic follow-up to his '50s debut novel, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. The protagonist of that tale, Arthur Seaton, still has some of his old fire, as grief intrudes on his life when he learns that his wife, Avril, is about to die of cancer. Arthur's troubles become a subplot this time around, though, as Sillitoe revisits the romance between Arthur's brother, Brian, and his old flame, Jenny Tuxford, whose disabled husband has finally died after an industrial accident forced him to spend the second half of his life in a wheelchair. The event that brings them together is Jenny's birthday party, where to the surprise of neither, sparks fly instantly despite the passage of the years. But Sillitoe's literary agenda consists of more than geriatric romance as he jumps back and forth in time, exploring Arthur's frustration with the lawlessness that has overtaken his community and Brian's dissatisfactions as a would-be novelist who wound up making excellent money as a TV sitcom writer. Brian and Jenny's eventual date is somewhat anticlimactic, although Sillitoe does provide some intriguing thoughts on how the passage of time has changed their perception of the affair, as the two characters consider reuniting. Sillitoe is no longer the aggressive, take-no-prisoners writer who brought these characters to life so provocatively half a century ago, but his craftsmanship remains high and his insights are always sharp. He does meander some, but in this novel, the literary journey more than justifies the occasional side trip. (May)

Reviewed on: 04/22/2002
Release date: 04/01/2001
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 276 pages - 978-0-7531-6650-5
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-0-00-710883-1
Paperback - 312 pages - 978-0-7531-6651-2
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