Arguably one of Benson's best novels, An Autumn Sowing combines the satiric wit he is so known for with a touch of seriousness so that readers care about the characters even as they laugh at them.
The way that Tom and Norah's feelings for each other gradually unfolds is done with great delicacy and sensitivity. I thought at first that it might turn out as though Norah was on the fiddle, only after Tom's loot, but she turns out to be genuine, and on the rare occasions when Tom stops being a businessman, he is shown to have more depth to him than is immediately apparent.
This is also a very funny book. In fact the first few pages of it seem to be one of Benson's wonderfully bitchy satires, you get no indication of the tenderness that is to come. One of Benson's gifts as a writer is that you can easily start off thinking he hates his characters, and is only sending them up, but this is not so. The opening scenes, which cover a typical family Sunday in the Keeling household, are beautifully acidy. Tom Keeling's mother-in-law, a spiteful old lady, never misses a moment during the Sunday roast to remind him that he only started off as a fish-monger, and eventually causes such a poisonous atmosphere that she has to be "led away from the table like a wicked little elephant".Read more ›