Sylvia Ashton-Warner Max Cosman - Essay

Max Cosman

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

To those acquainted with Henry Arthur Jones' Michael and His Lost Angel and Albert Camus' The Fall, Incense to Idols will not be unfamiliar. Like the former, though at greater length, it examines the symbiosis between sinner and saint. Like the latter, but the utterance feminine now, it employs the first-person form of the novel of confession.

This does not mean, however, that it is a potpourri of predecessors. Inescapably personal in approach, it has a latitude and longitude of its own, and though it is sometimes perfervid, over-symbolic, somewhat Pelagian ("sin achieves a more profound depth in its ugliness than sanctity in its pleasantness"), it is an original creation. (p. 292)

Like Spinster, Miss Ashton-Warner's previous novel, Incense to Idols carries weight on several levels. One surely, considering today's obsession with sex, is that it is never salacious in its many references to free-living. Another, no doubt, is its will to be just to everyone concerned. These are, of course, but introductory virtues. Those of pertinence to the novelist's art must begin with achievement of character. In this respect it is interesting to see how everyone of consequence in the book is individualized. Outstanding strengths and weaknesses are the means. (p. 293)

In [Germaine] it would seem, Miss Ashton-Warner has successfully captured a type characteristic of our period—the...

(The entire section is 473 words.)