Critical Context

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Angel Pavement, Priestley’s first serious novel of epic proportions and his first major critical success as opposed to the popular success of The Good Companions (1929), is a masterpiece of relentless tone that is curiously leavened at its conclusion by an optimism that at times mars Priestley’s other works. Even as he depicts them at their worst, Priestley suggests at the end, as he would continue to do throughout his long career, that his countrymen will survive, that they will pull themselves together and muddle through. Turgis may find the helpmate he needs in Poppy Sellers. Smeeth sees life more clearly then before as, ironically, he reaches for his old set of glasses to replace the ones he has broken in a brawl with the Mittys. Even Mrs. Dersingham shows herself ready to accept the challenge of an uncertain future.

The promise of romance and adventure which Golspie held for them all may be, even for him, an empty dream. As the freighter carrying Golspie and Lena sails for South America, the sun disappears. Life may be brightening for the rest, but there are gray skies ahead for Mr. Golspie. The conclusion of this bleakest of Priestley’s thirty novels ironically belies its author’s pose as realist. The ultimate denial of romance for Golspie himself reveals Priestley’s own romantic view of a just world which rewards the good and holds forth the promise of punishment for the evildoer. The golden days of his youth had been obliterated by a terrible war and the economic depression that followed it, but even in Great Britain’s darkest hours Priestley believed that mankind would build a better world and live in the sunlight once again.