NOCTURNE is a simple story about a few individuals, but the author, by concentrating his attention, is able to probe deeply into the feelings and attitudes of his characters. The novel explores the complexities of emotional ties between people: between sisters, between father and daughter, between girl and gentleman friend. None of these relationships is as simple as it at first appears. The girls, in particular, have learned to hide their emotions from each other; an almost stoic facade has become their sole method of self-protection. Their loneliness has given their grievances the opportunity to grow within their minds, and they feel mentally bruised and battered in their isolation.
Frank Swinnerton’s goal was to create a “fresh reality” out of the commonplaces of ordinary life. Deliberately taking simple people in a far from exceptional setting, he tried to show that, paradoxically, even they are unique individuals with unique—if universal—feelings. They all talk and think about freedom, but each has a different conception of what freedom would be for him or her. The contrast between the life-styles of the rich and poor is highlighted when Jenny visits Keith Redington’s yacht. To her sensibility, the contrast is startling; but even stronger than her aching for luxury is her craving for love.
Pa Blanchard, with his almost desperate hunger for news, illustrates brilliantly how much bored, trapped individuals rely on outside sensations for a feeling of being alive. With no radio or other electronic media to bring the world’s violence into his parlor, he must rely on his daughters to bring him reports of murders and disasters. Despite their brusqueness, the sisters really are fond of each other. Jenny’s belief that if they could all be sensible for half an hour “everything could be arranged and happiness could be made real for each of them” is the core of the book. Hungrily, they continue searching for happiness.