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Never Again Paperback – 5 Dec 2013


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Product details

  • Paperback: 266 pages
  • Publisher: Bello (5 Dec. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1447258231
  • ISBN-13: 978-1447258230
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 1.5 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,058,185 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

One of our great writers, of the calibre of Graham Greene and Nabokov. (Beryl Bainbridge)

He deserves the widest possible readership. (Melvyn Bragg Punch)

Mr. King is, of course, an extremely skilful writer. All his characters are credible, all worth observing. (Auberon Waugh Evening Standard)

No one writes better prose than Francis King. (Ruth Rendell)

About the Author

Born in Switzerland, Francis King spent his childhood in India, where his father was a government official. While still an undergraduate at Oxford he published his first three novels. He then joined the British Council, working in Italy, Greece, Egypt, Finland and Japan, before he resigned to devote himself entirely to writing. For some years he was drama critic for the Sunday Telegraph and he reviewed fiction regularly for the Spectator. He won the Somerset Maugham Prize, the Katherine Mansfield Prize and the Yorkshire Post Novel of the Year Award for Act of Darkness (1983). His penultimate book, The Nick of Time, was long-listed for the 2003 Man Booker Prize. Francis King died in 2011.

"One of our great writers, of the calibre of Graham Greene and Nabokov." Beryl Bainbridge

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mr. A. Taylor on 5 Jan. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Francis King was a great story teller. Ive dipped in and out of his books for some years but only recently come across some of his old stuff and have not been disappointed. Good old fashioned reading.
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Amazon.com: 1 review
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
"The Gathering Darkness" 16 Dec. 2013
By Eclectic Reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In his second novel, Never Again (1947; with an Introduction by Robert Khan in the 2013 Valancourt Books re-issue) prolific British author Francis King (1923-2011) deftly explores childhood loneliness, innocence, and the inevitable steps toward growing up. His main character, Hugh Craddock, appears to have a perfect life living with his parents in India during the British occupation of that country. An only child, Hugh is "spoiled," precocious, used to getting his way, and waited on by servants especially Luchmann whom Hugh adores even though the relationship has a unique "Master and servant" aspect with "an unquestioning assumption of authority." Hugh, however, also tends to get "nervous" and "worried" and has no one his own age with whom to play. He is also mystified by the adult world around him "from which he was excluded... Pain, death, and hatred were things spoken of but barely understood." With growing unrest and violence in India aimed at the British, Hugh's life undergoes a radical, altering change.

In his Introduction to Never Again, Robert Khan writes that Hugh, "the young protagonist of the novel, is based in so many ways on the Francis [King] of his youth. The novel evokes Francis' boyhood, which is closely paralleled by that of Hugh... In this autobiographical light, the entire novel mirrors the start of a long quest for human companionship and mutual support."

King places Hugh through one ordeal after another as the ten-year-old leaves the tranquility of his parents' home. Time and again he is placed under the guardianship of adults who have and show little genuine care or concern for the boy be it on a long ocean voyage to England with a friend of his mother's who is obviously carrying on an illicit affair (something Hugh really doesn't understand) or staying with relatives in England who resent the boy's presence and have no concept of how to deal with a youth or any desire to try to learn.

During Hugh's "quest for human companionship and mutual support" he is thwarted in his efforts to form a number of friendships. Aboard the ship that takes him to England it is a friendship with an Italian steward. At his aunt and uncle's home it is the cook with whom he is not allowed to associate and a somewhat older girl at a nearby farm is declared off-limits and "unsuitable." His aunt explains to Hugh, "In India you don't mix with the natives: in England you don't mix with--well--with the lower classes. That's not snobbishness; it's just sense." All of these potential relationships are abruptly ended because of class--something totally beyond Hugh's control (and usually his understanding).

School proves to be equally disappointing for Hugh where "he had hoped for something--a warmth or an intimacy, he did not know what--and he had not found it. As at the relatives, he felt there was a lack; but he was unable to define it..." Ironically, when he does make a friend at Frimley Towers, Brian Chorley, it is with a boy from a higher class than Hugh's own. Chorley is picked on because his mother is Jewish. The boys' "form-master," Mr. Burdock, humiliates the two boys "more than any other of his pupils" and "his malice sprang from an inherent knowledge that they [Hugh and Brian] were in every way superior to him--in birth and breeding, morally and intellectually." It is also Burdock who, without cause, finds something "unhealthy, morbid, nauseating, namby-pamby" about the boys' friendship.

The segregation of the British classes is often a focus one finds in King's writing. He doesn't dwell on the topic, he doesn't pontificate, but he is quick to point out the harmful effects of class warfare. At times Hugh's only distraction from the cold reality he encounters in England is to escape in his dreams--much like many of the young protagonists of Forrest Reid's fiction (e.g. Tom Barber).

Throughout Never Again there is a spirit of melancholy that is ever present. Much of it may be related to Hugh's unhappiness, but it appears to be an even greater consequence of the fact that he is slowly leaving childhood behind him and that he is maturing. Rather than be defeated by the elements around him and class distinctions, Hugh's "bewilderment" turns "into scorn" as he adopts an "exultant sense of power and a contempt for those who spend their lives cringing and fawning on their betters." Thus, it is a tribute to King's skill as an artist and an observer of life that the novel closes on an optimistic note. Hugh's experiences and evolution for the duration of the story give him a sense of strength and his maturation is a part of the natural order of things as he readies himself for an unknown future.

Never Again is an amazing novel. The descriptions of India, England, and Switzerland are vivid; the characters are real, their feelings and the tone that King evokes on every page is true to life and without unwarranted sentiment. Never Again is yet another minor masterpiece from this too often neglected writer that deserves the attention of many, many readers.
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