Have you heard of the author Joyce Cary? Not only had I not come across the name before, but when I did I assumed it was that of a woman. As it turns out Joyce Cary is a he not a she. An Anglo-Irish novelist whose work doesn't seem to fit neatly into one category but crosses several cultures/literatures--English, Irish and Nigerian due to his education, work and life experiences. I first came across Cary's novel, Charly is My Darling in Mary Cadogan's Women and Children First: Aspects of War and Literature (a library book which I keep renewing but must soon go back).
Of course I don't have the book handy (it's already back at work safely in my locker--though I hope to copy a few things first before dropping it back into the return bin), so I don't recall exactly what she had to say about him, but it was a favorable impression I got. As a matter of fact after I read about Charley is My Darling I had to see if I could get my hands on the book and discovered that not only does my library own it, but twenty-five other books by Cary. So not only was he prolific, but he must have once been popular and well respected.
Joyce Cary also happens to be one of Faber & Faber's Faber Finds authors, and they have reissued a dozen of his books, so they are readily available if there aren't copies in your library. In the biographical blurb on the Faber website I read its the difficulty in neatly categorizing him that is likely the reason his "reputation is not more secure". Apparently his work integrates the experimental with the traditional.
It was the story, however, that piqued my curiosity. Charley is an evacuee from the London slums to the countryside during the early days of WWII. It sounds as though cary manages to write about childhood during this period with a certain innocence but without sentimentality.
"Charley Brown, one of Joyce Cary's most memorable creations, is a figure of contrasts, aesthete and delinquent, leading his gang into daring acts both grand and bad. As his sweetheart, Lizzie Galor rightly puts it, he's every bit as good as the movies ..."
As the book was published in the 1940s it would be interesting to read due to its proximity to the war. I've not read much war literature dealing with children, but I know there are a number of well regarded books out there like Marghanita Laski's Little Boy Lost and Terence Frisby's memoir Kisses on a Postcard (both of which are on my reading pile). Just for a little taste, the story begins:
"An undersized boy, in a neat brown suit, stood in the farmyard. It was harvest-time. The September morning sun, bright as wheat straw, made even a broken traction-engine, lying against the wall, beautiful and exhilarating. The hens spread their wings to bathe in the falling light. The boy, shrunk together with his hands stuck deep in his pockets, looked so wretched that he seemed ridiculous, like one overdoing a part."
It sounds like it could be very good. As a side note, I also brought home Cary's A Fearful Joy, which sounds good as well.
"This ambitious novel, covering the life of an exceptional woman from her Victorian childhood until after the Second World War, is an attempt, in the author's own words, 'to lay bare historical change not just at the surface, but in its roots'."
So, I'm very curious about Joyce Cary. Has anyone read any of his books?