Like most of R.F. Delderfield's books, All Over The Town follows the transformation of a young man as he emerges into a post-war world where he looks for a better life. What I find so gratifying about Delderfield's books, as in this one, is that the hero knows that the war he's gone through means he was fighting for the promise a world that offers him a chance to affect his life and his community for good. And he's not willing to give up on the promise without at least make it come true.
Plus Delderfield's books are a social commentary on English society for the period in which they are set. In this case, the period is post-World War II England, an era that is often overlooked. That alone makes it worth picking up.
The hero, Nathaniel Hearn, wanders aimlessly back to the seaside town where he worked as a reporter on a weekly newspaper, doing work he humorously despised but at least it kept him in pocket money. Now he's fought a war and must decide if he'll be satisfied with the same life and job he had before or if there's a chance for more. The woman who took over his job while he was gone, romantically wakes him up to the possibility of a fuller life and to the possibility that there is more - that he can remake his job, the newspaper and the small town into something good in this world that is trying to recover from bombs and rationing and depression.
When he has he chance to take over the newspaper and start clearing away the deadwood in the town's society and exposing a shameful housing scheme, Nat comes alive with passion. His philosophy of "believing in people" means that someone, and why should it be him, should try to make the town better, using common sense and kindness. And if everyone concentrated on doing the same to his or her own little corner of the world, then pretty soon the whole country could regain its dignity and culture and comfort, which the war had put on hold for 6 long years.
This is one of those quiet books that reaffirms the belief that everyone has a power for good. Plus its a book that any true Anglophile will want because it speaks of England.
(This review was written by Diane, not Gerry.)