Known in this country for his books about the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, the author was also named one of the Best of Young British Novelists. This richly evocative memoir of a young boy's formative experiences, set in a seaside town on the Isle of Wight, proves Norman a writer of considerable talent. Louis Belmayne is 11 in 1954 when the novel opens with a powerful scene of his father's return home after having abandoned his family; the events leading up to this cataclysm are told in flashback. Through Louis's eyes we intuit the disintegration of his parents' marriage, the worsening relationship between his hot-tempered, unpredictable father, once an RAF ace but now a failure in every business venture and his gentle, overworked mother. But this is not a lugubrious story by any means. There are wonderful scenes of Louis's visits to his adored Nanny Belmayne, who cossets him with special treats; only the reader perceives that she is vulgar and lower-middle class . The seedy roller-skating rink that is his father's latest doomed enterprise is sometimes a haven for Louis and sometimes an ominous place where the tensions between his parents are most visible. The novel has two faults: the recounting of daily minutiae becomes somewhat static, and the ending is abrupt, leaving unanswered the crucial question of Louis's mother's departure. U.K. rights: Hamish Hamilton; translation rights: Literistic. December note to production: try to work layout so that the above review breaks in the middle and goes into another column.
This finely crafted psychological study is set in postwar England in the 1940s and early 1950s. A pavilion skating rink on the Isle of Wight becomes the focal point from which the main action of the novel develops. There, Louis Belmayne, the child who is the central character, learns to skate and is introduced by his father into the larger world of adult life with its tensions, sexuality, and class distinctions. Louis often visits his grandmother, Nanny Belmayne, in London. Her cozy world is a haven where Louis can hide away from the duties and responsibilities exacted from him in his father's world. This slightly depressing child's-eye view of adult concerns is handled with real finesse by the author. Laurence Hull, Stanly Cty. P.L., Albemarle, N.C.