Some books have a success partly because of their worth but also because they seem to hit the right note for the zeitgeist at their moment of publication. One thinks of Lucky Jim, The Virgin Soldiers and The L-Shaped Room. Kingsley Amis has been wise to resist the temptation to write a Son of Lucky Jim, but Leslie Thomas and Lynne Reid Banks have both succumbed. There is even a Y-shaped house in Two is lonely, being built by solidly masculine, 44-year-old Andy whom Jane Graham is considering as a 'daddy' for her 8-year-old, illegitimate son, David. Before making up her mind to marry Andy, Jane goes off to visit an earlier love, Toby, now living in the uncomfortably warm climate of Israel, where the sharav is blowing and the Six-Day War is about to flare up. Then … But this is the kind of book that depends more on plot than on quality of writing, so I think one should not reveal more of the story.
Lynne Reid Banks has certainly lost none of her gift for making you want to find out what happens next, and she can poke fun both shrewdly and sympathetically at minor characters like Chris, the hydrophil hippy. But she cannot quite rise to the big occasions such as the first night with the new lover and the last night with the old.
Throughout Two is lonely there are references to the L-Shaped Room, and one has the feeling that the writer, as well as Jane Graham, is looking back sentimentally to a golden age when all the world was young and lived in London's bedsitters. Boxers are not the only people who should weigh the risks carefully before attempting a come-back.
John Mellors, "Irish House of Atreus" (© British Broadcasting Corp. 1974; reprinted by permission of John Mellors), in The Listener, Vol. 91, No. 2350, April 11, 1974, p. 477.∗