Lynne Reid Banks Otis Kidwell Burger - Essay

Otis Kidwell Burger

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

L is for Loneliness. Also for Love. And L is the physical shape of the dreary, bug-ridden room on the top floor of an old rooming house to which Jane Graham, 27, unmarried, flees after her first disappointing experience with "love" to wait out its consequences. And, in this lovely first novel ["The L-Shaped Room"] by a young Englishwoman, it is love that finally shapes the L-shaped room. Love is the book's theme, developed in bright, warm prose, through diverse and interesting characters….

So deep is the author's sense of compassion and gentleness, and so vividly drawn are her scenes and characters, that it is perhaps petty to suggest that the story is also somewhat romantic. Not many girls in Jane's situation find these friends, or a Toby to love. Yet, believably, it is Jane's own qualities that enable her to see the friend in shy John, the lover in Toby. None of her decisions is easy. She is a life-giver, come late on her powers; and it is this sense, of a strong person falteringly discovering her real powers, that gives this novel its surprising emotional strength.

Otis Kidwell Burger, "Someone to Love," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1961 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), April 9, 1961, p. 38.