(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Paradise Postponed, which Mortimer wrote as a novel and television miniseries, is both a family chronicle and social commentary on England in the decades following World War II. Its conventional form (aside from flashbacks) and some of its plot (such as the prospect of lengthy litigation over a will) bring to mind novels by Dickens and Trollope. Like his nineteenth century predecessors, Mortimer tempers a sometimes poignant story of malaise with wit. Propelling the plot is a mystery that is not unraveled until the end, at which time the full significance of the title becomes clear. The earthly paradise that the main characters strive to achieve remains elusive, even to the one person who seemed to have it within grasp.

The main setting is a seemingly idyllic village, Rapstone Fanner. Rector Simeon Simcox, a socialist whose family owns the local brewery, devotes more time to ban-the-bomb marches and other political works than to his ecclesiastical duties. His wife is patient and indulgent. His older son is a novelist whose idealism Hollywood corrupts. His younger son is a self-effacing idealist, a country doctor who plays with a local jazz combo. The two brothers become involved with the same woman, who becomes pregnant by the younger, marries the older, eventually divorces him, and later rekindles the flame with the younger.

Intertwined with this Simcox saga is that of Leslie Titmuss, whose father is a brewery worker and whose mother...

(The entire section is 523 words.)