John Braine Essay - Braine, John (Vol. 3)

Braine, John (Vol. 3)

Braine, John 1922–

An English novelist and playwright, Braine's work deals with the tensions and ambitions of upper-middle-class men and women who live "life at the top." (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 1-4, rev. ed.)

It is always satisfying when a writer, whatever his level of aspiration and competence, comes up with just the thing he had it in him to do. After some dreadful potboiling, John Braine has produced a novel of real unforced style and feeling [The Queen of a Distant Country]. Still set in Braineland, of course, where the boys run away when their girls get pregnant, men regret that sex has to be attached to a female human, and the good life can only be seen in terms of a big car and being Somebody. In other novels he has used the theme that, though this just is the way it goes, there is a gleam or two of something else as well; but in a poor book, both cynicism and sentiment are unconvincing. This time it feels right: we believe with him that that's the way the ball bounces, but we believe in the intimations of guts and glory as well.

"Over the Counter," in The Times Literary Supplement (reproduced by permission), October 27, 1972, p. 1273.

People leaving—that has always been the predominant metaphor for the crowd of "look back in anger" novelists and playwrights that dominated the British literary scene in the fifties. Although Osborne, Sillitoe, and Wesker all seem a little dated now, Braine continues to speak to us with a certain urgency. Perhaps it is merely that the voice has mellowed, but there is less of the strident in his latest novel and more of a recognition that no matter how intense the anger against a decadent aristocracy or a dilapidated class system, the young rebels have softened in middle age…. Braine's latest novel [The Queen of a Distant Country] talks directly to a civilization which must now cope with the apathy of a youth which has plugged itself into the system and finds its ideals either co-opted or commercialized.

Jan B. Gordon, in Commonweal (reprinted by permission of Commonweal Publishing Co., Inc.), December 14, 1973, pp. 301-02.