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Caught (London Writing) [Paperback]

Henry Green , Jeremy Treglown
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
Price: 9.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

5 April 2001 London Writing
When the war breaks out, Rose, a well-to-do widower with a young son, Christopher, volunteers for the Auxiliary Fire Service in London, and is trained under a professional fire officer, Pye. The two men discover that a quite different link already exists between them: it was Pye's strange, disturbed sister who once upon a time abducted Christopher and kept him in her room until Pye rescued the terrified child. In the apocalyptic atmosphere of the Blitz the relationship between the two men develops as each of them grapples with his own troubled emotional attachments, the one to his dead wife, the other to his unhappy sister. Inevitably matters come to a head when history shows signs of repeating itself. The subtle handling of relationships, the brilliance of the dialogue and description - including one of the best accounts ever written of London under the Blitz - established Caught as one of Henry Green's most powerful novels.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 206 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (5 April 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1860468314
  • ISBN-13: 978-1860468315
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 12.8 x 1.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 409,808 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

From the Back Cover

In the apocalyptic atmosphere of the Blitz, gossip spreads like wildfire and the lives of two men are torn apart.

When war breaks out, Roe, a well-to-do widower with a young son, Christopher, volunteeers for the Auxiliary Fire Service in London, and is trained under a professional fire officer, Pye. The two men discover that quite a different link already exists between them: it was Pye's strange, disturbed sister who once upon a time abducted Christopher and kept him in her room until Pye rescued the terrified child. As each of them grapples with his own troubled emotional attachments, the one to his son and dead wife, the other to his unhappy sister, their relationship intensifies. The inevitable crisis sparks when, just as in the World War raging around them, history shows signs of repeating itself.

"A strange, sombre story with moments of almost melodramatic intensity, invoking the very special ambience of wartime London" Brian Fallon, Irish Times

About the Author

Henry Green is the pen-name for Henry Vincent Yorke, the son of a prosperous Midlands industrialist. He was born near Tewkesbury in 1905 and was educated at Eton and Oxford, where he wrote his first novel, Blindness, published in 1926. He entered the family business on the factory-floor, and went on to run the firm while writing eight other novels (all to be reissued as Harvill paperbacks). For Angus Wilson he was "one of the few really considerable English novelists of our time", while W.H. Auden considered him to be "the finest living English novelist". Henry Green died in 1973.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, distinctive writing 22 May 2001
By A Customer
I came across Henry Green thanks to the enthusiasm expressed by Michael Moorcock and the New Worlds writers in the 1970s. At that time he was out of fashion, though still enjoyed by a few. His books passed from hand to hand and all my own first editions have since found other homes. Caught in my opinion one of his best novels and one of his most easily accessible. He has something in common with Ivy Compton Burnett -- always a suggestion of a sensibility so refined it's only guessable by common mortals -- but he is hugely rewarding. Anyone who has not yet discovered and become enchanted by Henry Green is, as they say, in for a treat!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Roe and Pye 14 Sep 2009
By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER
A great writer of the mid 20th century, someone who was not content to build an oeuvre of similar books, and a man who writes counter-culturally, across class, society and politics, Henry Green is difficult to pin down.

In this novel he writes about a group of men who have signed on as Auxilliary fire-fighters as war becomes a reality in Britain at the beginning of 1941. Richard Roe is upper middle-class, though that is not quite the most important thing about him as he later proves. The majority of the auxiliaries are working class, including Pye, the sub-station chief. It transpires that Pye's sister abducted Christopher, Roe's five year-old son, from a chain store when he was out with his nanny, shortly before the novel begins. Pye took him to the police who reunited him with his father (his mother had recently died - we do not learn how) and the sister was incarcerated in a lunatic asylum. The extraordinary coincidence of Pye turning out, a matter of months from this incident, to be Roe's sub-station chief leaves both men embarrassed and wary, but Roe copes better than Pye.

Pye is a complex character - the novel is as much about him as it is about Roe - but not the only complex character we meet. As I have tended to find with Green's characters, they become remarkably real to the reader - even more real after the book is finished. Pye is a womaniser, a trades unionist, a worrier but a man who wants to help his fellows rather than be their boss. He is not lucky in his dealings with the Fire service's upper echelons, partly because he is led by his senses rather too easily and falling for a tartish upper class girl, indeed, becoming obsessed by her, is one of his contributory mistakes to the events that will lead to disaster for him.
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Written by Henry Vincent Yorke (Eton and Oxford) aka Henry Green, this novel is a curious mix of grittiness, charm and awkwardness. It is a fairly convincing period piece which captures the brutality of life as a member of London's Auxillary Fire Service during WW 2.However, it suffers from inadequate editing.
The excessively lengthy conversations in Eastend dialect between the AFS men, convey the impression that as a 'posho' the author is determined to appear as one of the lads. Such is the extent of the carefully rendered local dialect, that is is frequently close to parody, although this may be partly a result of reading it in 2013. The final pages consist of the hero, Roe, giving an account of his near death blitz experiences to his wife in their country home. A stronger editor would have positioned this more centrally in the novel, which is curiously short of action for the most part given the subject matter, and, could have gone further to make a convincing novella of the novel, the form of which is at best episodic. Given the educated nature of the author, it is perhaps not surprising that he has set out to write a novel of character: unfortunately, the balance between action and its impact on the key characters is misjudged.( Hence 4 stars.)
A bonus is the brief Introduction by Professor Jeremy Treglown, which sets the scene and whets the reade'rs appetite.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.3 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brits at War 26 Aug 2009
By T. Berner - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Henry Green was a remarkable man. For most of his life, he was an industrialist, running a company he inherited from his father. During World War II, as a middle aged man, he performed heroically as a fireman during the Blitz. And in the space of less than twenty years in his busy life, he wrote eight novels which rank with the best of twentieth century literature written in the English language. Then he stopped writing forever.

Although most of Mr. Green's work is readily available, for some reason Caught - a semi-autobiographical novel about his time with the London Fire Brigade - cannot be found except for used copies for sale at very high prices. Loathe as I am to recommend spending a fortune on a used paperback, in this case it's worth it (although, just a hint, you can find copies if you hunt hard enough for less than the prices here).

Mr. Green's story lacks action scenes - the only reference to a fire appears in the last twenty pages or so and even then it is written as a conversation with the protagonist's sister-in-law - but nonetheless gripping for that. The dynamics of the British class system is the theme of the book. Richard Roe is a upper class Englishman in a fire station full of Cockneys. Pye, the substation chief, (Pye/Roe - Pyro - is the only pun in the book) is in a leadership position for the first time in his life. To make matters more awkward, Pye's unbalanced sister once kidnapped the widowed Roe's son.

The chronology of the book extends from shortly before the war to the waning days of the Blitz, but most of the book takes place during the "Phony War." The story captures everyday people going about their mundane business. There are no heroes for most of the book because there is precious little to be heroic about, just waiting for the fires that may never come. Petty scandals and clumsy relationships dominate the text as Pye and Roe struggle to cope with their new duties.

But as the characters work through their lives in this insightful, moving, eloquent and subtly funny book, the reader gains a deeper understanding of the British people in World War II than he can acheive almost anywhere else. Frankly, if you can't find a copy of this book in the library or more cheaply, even $100 for a well loved paperback is a bargain if you calculate a book's value on the pleasure and education it provides you.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Blitz before it knew itself 24 Aug 2010
By S. Smith-Peter - Published on
This is an excellent book, although I've only given it 4 stars because it's not the best of Green's novels. If you're interested in Green (and you should be if you have the least interest in the modern novel), you should start with Loving, Party Going and Blindness before reading this one. However, this is a fine book dealing with Green's experience as an auxiliary fireman before and during the Blitz. Most of the book takes place while the characters are waiting for something to happen. This is characteristic of most of Green's books, actually. In Party Going the characters are waiting for the fog to lift so they can take a trip. In Caught, however, the waiting is more serious, as it is tied to the early period of World War Two.

The main characters here are Pye, the leader of an auxiliary fire brigade who is out of his depth, and the narrator himself, who is upper class. The class tensions are the main subject here, and we get a sense of how they constrained people's lives and mental processes.

The book was written between 1940 and 1942, before the Blitz was enshrined in history and myth. This is an unheroic but very real take on the experience of men and a few women during this period. It's definitely worth reading, if only for the last two lines, which are quintessentially English.
4.0 out of 5 stars Ordinary people and events in an extraordinary time 12 May 2014
By Daniel Drobnis - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This title was recommended in a recent issue of The Week that dealt with contemporary civilian accounts of WWII in Britain. It is a work of fiction, but written by a respected author who was a member of the Auxiliary Fire Service in 1940 London and incorporating his experiences during both the Phony War and the Blitz.

Anyone expecting a straightforward account of wartime heroism should look elsewhere. Instead, this is an account, as pilots say, of 99% tedium--in many cases of the most bureaucratic sort--relieved by moments of stark terror. Several characters are followed through ordinary lives disrupted by the war, without reaching any tidy conclusion. This is probably appropriate for a work completed in 1942.

Be prepared for a story told nonlinearly, and that deals with ordinary people responding to both ordinary events and an extraordinary time.
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