Simon Raven John Coleman - Essay

John Coleman

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Brother Cain is the oddest book I expect to read this year. Jacinth Crewe, after expulsion from school, premature departure from Cambridge, and enforced resignation from the Army, is taken on … by an international organisation bent on combating 'democratic excess and Communist exploitation.'… After a staggering indoctrination course, some tests and assorted sex, he ends up in Venice, confronting his assigned victims at a masked ball. With Jacinth's character, with his easy bisexuality, his Cambridge nostalgia and dreams, his peculiar concern with guarding his 'honour' (while fairly coolly going through with one of the nastiest acts imaginable), it would take an analyst to deal adequately. There are faint echoes of both Daisy Ashford and Ian Fleming in the chilly, jolly tone: 'after a busy evening spent buying cars and clothes, they had some dinner'—Mr. Raven frequently tells you what they had for dinner, and very nice too—but there is something that is Mr. Raven's own in the twists and turns down to a nightmare finale. Once past the early dream-sequences and organisational oratory, which I found elaborately dull, though ingenious, one is sucked along to the end. It is an unwholesome, caddish, talented book. (p. 559)

John Coleman, "The Facts of Fiction," in The Spectator (© 1959 by The Spectator; reprinted by permission of The Spectator), Vol. 203, No. 6852, October 23,...

(The entire section is 414 words.)