Titmuss Regained

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

TITMUSS REGAINED is a worthy sequel to the highly successful social comedy, PARADISE POSTPONED (1985). Mortimer once again puts the village of Rapstone under the microscope for close examination. This time the citizens of Rapstone are outrages by the possibility that developers may bulldoze their tranquil village into oblivion. The inhabitants look to their representative, Leslie Titmuss, for a just solution. He has clawed his way up the political ladder to Cabinet Minister at the Department of Housing, Ecological Affairs, and Planning. He would normally side with “progress,” but there is a new wrinkle in his life that complicates matters.

Since his first wife was killed at a peace demonstration, Titmuss has been on the lookout for a suitable replacement. His choice is the cultured and beautiful Jenny Sidonia. She is still mourning the death of her first husband, but Titmuss believes that he can convince her to marry him. He purchases Rapstone Manor in the hopes of luring her away from London and into the countryside as his wife. If he sides with the developers, his whole plan will be ruined.

Mortimer is very adept at portraying the many compromises that public and private situations engender. Along the way he introduces a number of eccentric characters. There are fanatics on both sides of the “progress” issue--including a keeper of the Rapstone Nature Area who will stop at nothing to keep people from spoiling the pristine preserve. Titmuss does marry the beautiful and refined Jenny Sidonia, but all is not well. Jealous of her memory of her dead husband, he hires a private detective to dig up some information that will destroy her perfect image of the late Tony Sidonia. The detective delivers, but Titmuss loses his new wife in the process because of his underhanded methods. TITMUSS REGAINED is a very funny read, but it is ultimately a very sad one. Character flaws trip up the individuals at every turn. The setting of the novel may be a small English village, but the issues and the choices are universal.