The Fire and the Wood. A Love Story. by R.C. Hutchinson ~ 1940. This edition: The Literary Guild of America, 1940. Hardcover. 440 pages.
My rating: 9/10
Hidden gem alert!
I have just stumbled upon a now-obscure, once-bestselling British novelist. Why have I not heard of Ray Coryton Hutchinson before?
Seventeen books published between 1930 and 1975. The third, 1933’s The Unforgotten Prisoner, sold over 150,000 copies in its first month. A Child Possessed, 1964, won the W.H. Smith Literary Award, and is the inspiration behind a 2012, 2-act orchestral opera composed by Robert Paterson. The last, 1975’s posthumously published Rising, made it to the Booker Prize shortlist.
The Fire and the Wood, apparently regarded as merely one of Hutchinson’s “average” efforts, is a downright excellent piece of authorial work, being utterly relevent to its period, chock-full of easily absorbed “message”, and, best of all, compulsively readable. I couldn’t put the thing down. The writing flows, the whole transcends its parts. Brilliant work.
In the opening days of World War II, a novel was published in Great Britain with the following dedication: