(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Born in Captivity is a picaresque novel tracing the adventures of Charles Lumley as he searches for his place in postwar English society. Rejecting the upper-class possibilities which would come to someone with even a mediocre university degree, turning his back on the middle-class upward scrambling of his family, Lumley turns over his life to chance, making decisions only when he must flee from personal danger or from what he perceives as the traps of convention.

After graduation, Lumley has disappeared for a period of contemplation, but when he reaches the end of his funds, he is still uncertain of his direction in life. Reluctantly buying a ticket home, he makes a fateful detour to see his girlfriend. Faced with the unpleasant middle-class aggressiveness of her relatives, Lumley insults them and flees without seeing her or his own family. Reborn in a working-class pub, Lumley begins his search for a mode of life in which he can be free.

In each of the careers which follow his new resolution, Lumley’s life falls into a pattern. At first, things go well; then some human relationship results in the end of his career and generally in his flight; surviving, Lumley is propelled by chance into another occupation and into the repetition of the pattern. Throughout his adventures, he is frequently endangered either by his own weakness for the opposite sex or by encounters with old schoolmates and university acquaintances.


(The entire section is 537 words.)


(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Booklist. Review. L (March 15, 1954), p. 280.

Burgess, Anthony. The Novel Now: A Guide to Contemporary Fiction, 1967.

Kirkus Reviews. Review. XXII (February 1, 1954), p. 76.

The New Yorker. Review. XXX (March 20, 1954), p. 125.

Salwak, Dale. John Braine and John Wain: A Reference Guide, 1979.

Sullivan, Richard. Review in Chicago Sunday Tribune. March 28, 1954, p. 8.

Wickenden, Dan. Review in New York Herald Tribune Book Review. March 21, 1954, p. 3.