William Mayne Alberta Eiseman - Essay

Alberta Eiseman

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The background [of "Sand"] is perfect for a suspense story: an old English town by the North Sea where the sand drifts in relentlessly, burying houses and trees beneath great dunes…. Under the constant shifting of scene, each happening tends to become anticlimactic. And it is too bad that against this brooding backdrop, the characters, like footprints in the drifting sand, leave no lasting impression. (p. 46)

Alberta Eiseman, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1965 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), November 28, 1965.

[Pig in the Middle does not contain] one of Mr. Mayne's complex plots. Indeed it is simple to the point of lacking interest. It is difficult, too, to accept the naivety of the boys and their acceptance of the leadership of John Much, huge, retarded, illiterate. John is a typical Mayne creation, sending out his meaningless summonses in exquisite calligraphy and keeping his "library" of unread books; but one smells here too much of the labour of creation, too little spontaneity.

There remains the accurate painting of the town, its canal and its dark, dirty back streets leading to adventures more exciting and real than those described in this book, and the authentic interior of Michael's house. This, and the cadences of everyday speech, are what Mr. Mayne does supremely well, and they never fail even in, what this is, the least satisfying of his books. (p. 1139)

The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1965; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), December 9, 1965.