Posts Tagged ‘Angell Pearl and Little God’

Angell, Pearl and Little God by Winston Graham ~ 1970. This edition: Fontana, 1972. Paperback. 414 pages.

First off: this is likely to be right up near the top of my list for “most memorable reads of 2018”.

Wilfred Angell, 47, large and undeniably fat, avoids emotional complications in his personal life by refusing to dally with women. He’s a successful solicitor, rather wealthy, in fact, who dabbles in deals shading on illegal. His hobbies are attaining art and antiques, and gormandizing.

Pearl Friedel, 20, tall and beautiful, avoids emotional complications in her personal life by refusing to go all the way with the young working-class men who squire her about to dinners and dances. She’s a perfume salesgirl in a large department store. Her hobbies are keeping herself looking nice, and looking forward to her one holiday a year, which she spends with a group of friends at a cut-rate continental holiday resort.

Godfrey Brown, 22, small in stature but perfectly proportioned, avoids emotional complications in his personal life by taking what he wants from women without committing anything at all. He’s an up and coming flyweight boxer, billed under the name “Little God”, working as a chauffeur to pay the bills. His hobbies are sparring and keeping in fighting fit form, and sex.

Wilfred meets Pearl on an airplane. Godfrey meets Pearl at a dance. Both want her, but what does Pearl want? Love? Or merely a better life than she foresees for herself in the social strata into which she was born?

Wilfred cannily courts Pearl, object: marriage.

Godfrey takes her out, and tries to rape her on their first date.

Pearl is terrified of Godfrey, and rightly so.

Wilfred ultimately looks like a safer bet, with his offering of a companionate, sexless marriage and a cash settlement to spend or invest as she wishes.

But Godfrey has developed an unhealthy obsession regarding Pearl…

“Gold, love and death.” An apt title for this French translation.

These three not particularly sympathetic characters, flawed through and through, meander along through this richly detailed novel, which builds and builds in an increasingly tense atmosphere of impending emotional drama. Violence is always there in the shadows, and from time to time it erupts, as Angell, Pearl and Little God pursue their hidden desires.

It’s hard to categorize this brilliantly black and frequently darkly humorous novel. It’s full of masterfully written set scenes: in the audience and in the ring at a boxing match; in a dying aristocrat’s bedroom; watching from fly-on-the-wall perspective shady property deals and the complex mechanics of legal-on-paper backroom bargains; a husband going through his absent wife’s bedroom, looking for something he’s not sure he’ll recognize; four laps in a racecar; a brutal seduction scene.

We don’t really like any of the titular characters and it’s doubtful that we’re meant to, though we certainly get inside their heads. Irony abounds, as their individual decisions result to a great extent in what they each deserve.

My rating: 9.5/10

The .5 reduction because Graham sometimes indulges in letting himself go on just a bit too long here and there. (And the sex scenes are cringe-inducing here and there. But hey. Sex scenes. Writers’ downfalls, pretty well universally. So I give these a conditional pass.)

But my goodness, that man was a writer.

 

 

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