Leon Garfield Margery Fisher - Essay

Margery Fisher

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The separation of mind and feeling is the theme of Mr. Corbett's ghost, the first of three stories which confirm the pattern of Leon Garfield's language and thought. He has never rendered atmosphere with as much power as he does in the scenes of his first story, making Hampstead Heath an expanding place of terror and possession. The bitter struggle of a young apprentice to free himself from a cruel master is shown, literally, on the frontiers of the human spirit…. To his chill and mysterious detail Leon Garfield adds a wry and mature understanding of the indignities of human nature. So finely is his story worked out that we are hardly aware that strong form and verbal dexterity have done their part in carrying the force of its theme. In a lighter vein but still with a sombre irony, Vaarlem and Tripp shows a glimpse of cowardice and genius in the setting of a seventeenth century sea battle. At sea again, in The simpleton, a boy transported through the trickery of evil associates finds himself in the company of jailbirds and unexpectedly protected by the worst of them. A pretty passenger further complicates his situation until the wheel of fortune brings him fortune and revenge in a way that provokes laughter and thought alike in the reader. The paradoxes and quips of this tale alone would be enough to make Leon Garfield as a craftsman of the first rank; his serious comment on human beings is never allowed to extrude from a literary form which is part and parcel of it. (p. 1374)

Margery Fisher, in her Growing Point, September, 1969.