Mary Hocking writes with very little of that verve that makes [Alan] Sillitoe good company on a London-to-Nihilon Express, but The Climbing Frame wins hands down at linking socialism with nihilism…. The Climbing Frame is a meticulous book about the tedious tragedies of running a school system. An aggressively unwed mother draws drama to herself over a playground accident that doesn't merit a sticking plaster. A combination of circumstance, buck-passing, political in-fighting, personality clash and a dearth of news escalate the incident toward national press and television coverage. It is the sort of local crisis that brings out the worst in both individuals and the system. The novel contains a disastrous magazine-style romance, and the situation itself is of a kind that commends itself to television series. What lifts it above this level is Mary Hocking's sharp, forgiving focus on the minds and motives of the little politicians. No slaughter here, but this nonsense is truly menacing. (p. 370)
Janet Burroway, in New Statesman (© 1971 The Statesman & Nation Publishing Co. Ltd.), September 17, 1971.
Before the psychiatrists made a fetish of it, novelists were quietly observing the tiny, crushing hypocrisies of family life and their effects. It would be a pity to say much about the actual plot of Family Circle, because it is unfolded through...
(The entire section is 518 words.)