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Caught
     

Caught

by Henry Green, James Wood (Introduction)
 

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During the Blitz, Henry Green served on the London Auxiliary Fire Service, and this experience lies behind Caught, published when the bombing had only recently ended. Like Green, Richard Roe, the hero of this resolutely unheroic book, comes from the upper class. His wife remains at their country estate, far from the threatened city, while Roe serves under

Overview

During the Blitz, Henry Green served on the London Auxiliary Fire Service, and this experience lies behind Caught, published when the bombing had only recently ended. Like Green, Richard Roe, the hero of this resolutely unheroic book, comes from the upper class. His wife remains at their country estate, far from the threatened city, while Roe serves under Pye, a professional fireman whose deranged sister once kidnapped Roe’s young son, a bad memory that complicates the relationship between these two very different men. The book opens as the various members of the brigade are having practice runs and fighting boredom and sleeping around in the months before the attack from the air. It ends with Roe, who has been injured in the bombing, back in the country, describing and trying to come to terms with the apocalyptic conflagration in which he and his fellows were caught, putting into question the very notion of ordinary life.

Caught was censored at the insistence of its publisher, Leonard Woolf, when it came out in 1943. This is the first American edition of the book to appear as Green intended.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"First published in 1943 and now reissued in the New York Review Classics series, Caught manages the improbable feat of being both a harrowing war story of London during the Blitz and a sharply observed comedy about social class. Green was a silver-spoon aristocrat, but his ear for common speech was as keen as Dickens’s." —Charles McGrath, The New York Times Book Review 

“In its lyrical treatment of ordinary London lives it has a mood and style quite unlike anything else I’ve come across in other fiction of the time.” —Sarah Waters, The Sunday Times

“The subject of all Henry Green’s later novels is the inner language and landscape in which his characters lead their real lives. . . . This distinctly upper-class artist is pretty well the first English novelist to have listened to working-class speech and to have understood its overtones and undertones. . . . He could of course have been playing a clever game; but he was not. The morbid, the comic, the lyrical, and even the mannered aspects of his talent were not affected: fierce, fantastic and eccentric as it could be, his material came from the outside and mingled with his nature.” —V.S. Pritchett

"Green's acrobatic syntax yields not an easy reading experience but a rewarding one, as he weaves multiple narratives over and through one another, reeling among perspective shifts, zigzagging through clouds of memory and conjecture….Dense and often funny, this reissue is necessary reading for fans of both Green and modernist fiction.” —Kirkus starred review

Praise for Henry Green: 

"Seductive and pleasing...[an]original and engaging author, who wrote about social class—or, rather, the social classes, all of them—with a mordancy and affection that have seldom been surpassed...Henry Green wrote the way he did, in other words, because he couldn't write any other way; he was not a fabulist but a realist, who described the world just as he experienced it." —Charles McGrath, The New York Times

"Green's working aesthetic was delicate, allusive, and cryptic... He could produce a vivid image with a minimum of words...Green himself ardently mixes darkness and light, and his work must always appeal to those readers who, like him, do not fear life's inevitable contradictions." —Brooke Allen, New Criterion

"One of the most piquant and original English writers not only of his generation but of the century." —John Updike, The New Yorker

Kirkus Review
★ 2016-07-27
Green draws on his experience with the Auxiliary Fire Service in this intricate 1943 novel about waiting for and living through the London Blitz.When Richard Roe joined up with the AFS, nine months before Britain entered WWII, he never expected war would really occur; when it does come, his company braces for raids but is met instead by near-endless tedium, packed into an overheated substation, playing workplace politics, waiting for hellfire to rain from the sky. Roe's situation is complicated by an incident involving his subofficer Pye's sister, who abducted Roe's son as he stood dazzled in the stained-glass light of a toy shop, "a permanence of sapphire in shopping hours." This is the merest taste of Green's descriptive spellcasting, his almost psychedelic sketches of varying qualities of light and the emotional, sensory, and psychological effects of color. With his sister confined to a psychiatric institution to avoid prosecution, Pye wonders, finally, if he played a part in her deteriorating mental state. Roe's wife and son, meanwhile, have been evacuated to his childhood home. He visits them infrequently, on a slow train scoring a line along which he makes a clean break between his existence in London, where he gives in to the frenzied lusts of wartime with Hilly, the station's mess manager, and his familial life in the country, where he is overwhelmed with love for his wife. The two seemingly disparate states are not at odds in his mind, true to Green's deep understanding of the protean, multilayered nature of human existence. Green's acrobatic syntax yields not an easy reading experience but a rewarding one, as he weaves multiple narratives over and through one another, reeling among perspective shifts, zigzagging through clouds of memory and conjecture. At last comes the final conflagration, which does not kill but consumes Roe, rising up in a blaze of heat and color, death and danger. Dense and often funny, this reissue is necessary reading for fans of both Green and modernist fiction.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781681370125
Publisher:
New York Review Books
Publication date:
11/22/2016
Series:
NYRB Classics Series
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
208
Sales rank:
156,485
Product dimensions:
4.90(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.60(d)

Meet the Author

Henry Green (1905–1973) was the pen name of Henry Vincent Yorke. Born near Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire, England, he was educated at Eton and Oxford and went on to become the managing director of his family’s engineering business, writing novels in his spare time. His first novel Blindness (1926), was written while he was at Oxford. He married in 1929 and had one son, and during the Second World War served in the Auxiliary Fire Service. Between 1926 and 1952 he wrote nine novels, Blindness, Living, Party Going, Caught, Loving, Back, Concluding, Nothing, and Doting, and a memoir, Pack My Bag.

James Wood is a novelist and a staff critic at The New Yorker. He is Professor of the Practice of Literary Criticism at Harvard University.

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