Mervyn Jones D.A.N. Jones - Essay

D.A.N. Jones

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

This long family chronicle [Today the Struggle] seems to have all the qualities desired by readers of family chronicles, except the conservative values….

Mervyn Jones rattles on, with incident after incident, for forty years of this century, almost at the pace of Henry Fielding—but rarely pausing to settle on a scene or character, or to philosophize in Fielding's manner, until the final third of the book…. The first two-thirds seem designed for the family-chronicle reader to enjoy, slowly, in bed, on long winter evenings, getting to know the characters with their ever-changing relationships and kinship patterns. But the pace of the novel is such that it resembles a very long synopsis for a very long-running television serial….

If we did not know Mervyn Jones's career as a committed left-winger, we might suppose this book to have been written by an uncommonly broad-minded Conservative, gently attempting to expose the follies of well-meaning left-wing idealists over the past forty years. But in fact, surely, he is struggling with the politics and society of the present, and that is why his final chapters are so much more alive than the earlier. Hindsight makes him bland about the past. He finds "today" more of a struggle, and it brings out his best.

D.A.N. Jones, "Keep the Red Flag Flying Here," in The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1978; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), February 17, 1978, p. 185.