The Beano

Rony Robinson, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P $16.95 (170p) ISBN 978-0-15-111229-6
At once comic and elegiac, this singular little novel poignantly captures an English working-class world on the eve of virtual extinction. It's 1914, and members of the Britlings Brewery are off by train to the seaside resort of Scarborough for their summer excursion. A series of deftly interlocking vignettes present the characters: the boss, Mr. Holles, brassy, ribald and given to spouting his homemade free-enterprise philosophy; his wife, ``poor Mrs. Holles''; the humorless Mr. Wagstaff, responsible for organizing the brewery banda feckless socialist, his mind is as much on his landlady as on the freedom of the worker; a couple from the accounts department, too timid to declare their love for each other; three suffragettes who have barely heard of Mrs. Pankhurst; some mischievous boys, ``stowaways'' on the train and pranksters at the seaside; and a passel of others. After the train ride, with its chatting, boozing and singing, comes Scarboroughthe walk along the esplanade, the dip in the sea, the trips to the bandstand, the dance hall and the fortune-tellerand then the dispiriting journey back. Robinson has beautifully captured the lives and attitudes of a society about to be changed irremediably by World War I. (July)
Reviewed on: 06/03/1988
Release date: 06/01/1988
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