Molly Keane The Times Literary Supplement - Essay

The Times Literary Supplement

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

M. J. Farrell's Young Entry …, presumably a first novel, has just those qualities that are more often found in books written by novelists of long experience. The characters, in the first place, are allowed to explain themselves instead of being explained by a process of oratio recta on the author's part; and, secondly, the dialogue springs naturally from the action and is not merely a decorative appendage of it. Miss Farrell has two admirable backgrounds, Ireland and the hunting-field, for her book, which is, in the last analysis, a character study of two "country girls," Prudence and Peter. Both are modern, but sanely and not tiresomely so; and one of Miss Farrell's greatest triumphs is the way she manages to give a vivid sense of their characters through stray snatches of their conversation. The dialogue of modern young people has been a great trial to novelists, who in their efforts to reproduce it have either over-elaborated or else reduced it to a series of more or less improper monosyllables. Miss Farrell has caught the exact tone of it—laconic, abrupt, illuminating, occasionally obscure owing to the quick, unheralded jump from subject to subject, and occasionally affectionate. In this cunningly shaped mirror the movements and features of Peter and Prudence are perfectly reflected. The reader can, as it were, sit back in his chair and understand without effort the similarity and the difference between them….

Because Peter and Prudence are so lovable and interesting the reader will the more resent Miss Farrell's unnecessary attempt to drag a supernatural element into the book. The suicide of the cook and haunting of the house are out of key with the rest of the novel—Miss Farrell's one lapse into amateurism—and he can be assured that in her descriptions of hunting, in her dialogue and, above all, in Prudence and Peter she has provided more excellence than anyone has the right to expect in three average first novels put together.

A review of 'Young Entry," in The Times Literary Supplement, No. 1364, March 22, 1928, p. 213.