on 2 May 2016
The 'Hands to Dance' sequence of short stories seemed to be embellished autobiography. Charles Causley himself served as a coder during World War 2 :
Particularly appreciate the lack of glamour. The stories largely take place on the fringes of war in the sense away from the main flashpoints of war or centres of power. Causley's native Cornwall is featured, but also Australia, Gibraltar, West Africa. Nothing like the convoy action of 'The Cruel Sea' or 'HMS Hermes'
There's a great sense of the peculiar and surreal aspects of war and post war years. The darker side of human nature looms but without the misanthropy of Roald Dahl but brutal nevertheless at times such as in 'A Night in Alec' and 'Murder in Classroom 4': 'Looking for Annie' ( amongst others) shows the tragic and comic sides of war, 'A Sailor at Waterloo' is perhaps the most light hearted on what can go wrong in trying to report back from leave. 'Goldie Goes West' features an ex POW who can not settle to peace time . 'The Waltz in A Minor' reminds one of Patrick O'Briens 'Samphire', about a married couple living a most dire and claustrophobic existence.
Found myself deliberately reading one story at a time to make the collection of 19 last.
'Skylark' , Charles Causley's account of his naval service is endearing, with some light hearted moments yet the horror of war triumphs. Perhaps the final paragraph sums Causley's view of war
"I suspect that among my contemporaries there are many who share my recurrent bad dream: I am in my twenties on the messdeck of a ship at sea; it is night, and the war is going on for ever . "
on 6 November 2011
Many of Causley's stories hint at autobiography, they certainly draw on his wartime experience. I particularly like 'An experience of life', sketching out a schoolmaster's day, well up to midday, and the Head's view of why he should not write a reference... until the master's Chief Petty Officer turns up and addresses the school. There's something missing from these stories and I am not sure what yet they possess an honesty and, if you are Cornish or enjoy Cornuphilia, this must be read.