- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd (27 April 1989)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0140120432
- ISBN-13: 978-0140120431
- Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 2.5 x 12.7 cm
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1 customer review)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,408,914 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Charmer Paperback – 27 Apr 1989
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Ralph Gorse appears to be a charmer in every way--he is handsome, suave, and full of style--but his true nature is that of a con man and sexual adventurer, and no one is safe from his machinations.
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The book version of "The Charmer," originally "Mr. Stimpson and Mr. Gorse" takes place in 1928,in Reading,a suburban,middle-class town. Stimpson and Gorse are the protagonists,Mrs. Joan Plumleigh-Bruce is the woman they both desire,for very different reasons. Gorse,young,attractive,and very devious wants her money,Stimpson,very middle aged and set in his ways,wants her for a wife. Gorse is the intruder,the fresh upstart,the interloper,upsetting the same rather dull,tedious life that Stimpson and Plumleigh-Bruce have been leading.
The book gives a detailed, intricate,picture of middle class 1920s England; the speech,attitudes, and perceptions through the minds and mouths of the book's characters. The
story revolves around the swindling of a widowed,middle class woman by a slick,good-looking young man. The ending of the book has a surprise,although nothing of note happens to Gorse.
The book's weak point: The author gets very tedious on several occasions. He treats us, twice in the book, to listing clues to crossword puzzles a character is working on,for a page or 2, and treats us to various word choices that a character is working on for a poem he is trying to get published in the newspapers. I could find no real relevance to the story being told, and skipped over these irrelevant trivia.
While I have given the book 4 stars,I would give 5 stars to the Masterpiece Theater version,available on DVD. The screenplay kept the characters intact and true to the book,for the most part,but the screenplay jazzed up the story in a very effective way,making a somewhat slow(in parts),plodding book fast-paced. The screen version also effectively draws to a close the story of Mr. Stimpson,Mr. Gorse, and Mrs. Joan Plumleigh-Bruce. The book's ending is quite different,and certainly not as final as the screenplay's.
Finally,I recommend reading the book,if this genre and setting interests you. After you read the book,treat yourself to the DVD(that's 5 stars). If you've already seen the screenplay,read the book. It's interesting and different enough from the screenplay to spend time reading. If you have not seen "The Charmer," and have not read the book,watch the DVD.
The writer is funny. For example, the pub, The Friar, has been 'ye-olded' recently. The house of Mrs. Plumleigh-Bruce is filled with brass objects. At one point Hamilton refers to it as the brasserie. It is situated in a neighborhood of garden gnomes.
Donald Stimpson is an estate agent and a friend of Joan Plumleigh-Bruce. He is a plodder and does not see Gorse as a rival. The author demonstrates that Gorse has method. He goes for the long shot. He investigates the social and financial circumstances of acquaintances by listening carefully. All of this is unpleasant and striking in the manner of Shirley Jackson.
The book has been used as the basis of a mini-series.
a la Dorothy Sayers, this is not the book for you. However, if you like pitchperfect satirical writing on a par with Kingsley Amis, "the Charmer" will leave you as sweetly satisfied as a strychnine petit four.
Hamilton is an oddly overlooked novelist. His plays "Rope" and "Gaslight" (from "Angel Street") garnered him welldeserved attention, but his novels are brilliant, and I don't understand why they're out of print. "The Charmer" is a portait of four suburban British self-deluded "normal" people, each playing out his or her own fantasy of who he/she fancies himself, while the author gives us an unsparing, brilliantly misanthropic portrait of who each actually is. -Doesn't sound thrilling, but this novel is funny, hard to put down, and ultimately profoundly sad.
It was made into a PBS Masterpiece Theatre series a decade or so ago, with Nigel Havers as the eponymous Charmer.