Anglo-Saxon Attitudes. A novel (Compass Books. no. C62.)
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Gerald Middleton, eminent historian and scholar, is at war with his conscience. Separated from his sentimental Danish wife, mistrusted by his children, unable to satisfy his mistress Dollie, Gerald is torn between self-deception and the unhappy truth about his personal and professional life.
Top Customer Reviews
Perhaps the provenance of the idol is a useful metaphor for examining English society in the mid-50's. The significant cast of characters, drawn from a broad swath of that society, act out their fates based on their own location within the society. Yet there will always be some upward mobility, as well as some backsliding for the schemers. The relationships between men and women are universally sad, with a dominant driving force being "accommodation."
Wilson is an excellent writer, and it was a delight to read his historical slice of England, wry humor and all. I thought of the early days of the Internet, slow modem connections, the downloading of pictures, pixels at a time, first one rough pass, then another, finally the entire picture comes into sharper focus. Wilson writes in that fashion, a rough pass, a hint of something deeper, and then he returns over the events, and the picture deepens and intensifies.
Such novels are vital for the perspective they bring to the present, how some things truly are new, but mainly, much is repetition of the same human drama, with all its aspirations and flaws.
(Note: Review first published at Amazon, USA, on April 24, 2008)
I first read "Anglo Saxon Attitudes" when I was about eighteen. I've since re-read it at intervals of 5 years or so. So I must have read it about 25 times. Each reading gave me pleasure in the same way, and in a different way.
The book was written shortly after it was proved that Piltdown Man, discovered in 1912, was a fake -- a huge scandal of scientific fraud. The imaginary premise of the book is a fraud also committed in 1912: the placing of a pagan idol in the coffin of an Anglo Saxon bishop. The protagonist, Gerald Middleton, a young, promising, handsome, sensual and wealthy scholar of medieval history, has some grounds for suspecting the fraud, but for one reason or another doesn't do enough to get round to exposing it. So Middleton, whose life is supposed to be dedicated to the promotion of historical truth, by his cowardice or laziness has allowed a lie to be planted in the historical record.
Somehow this affects the whole of Middleton's life. Everything goes wrong for him in love, family and profession. He has not the courage to leave his appallingly superficial wife for the woman he truly loves, who gradually turns into a hopeless drunk. He is estranged from his dysfunctional children. By the age of 60 his brilliant promise has produced nothing. Instead of writing great historical work he just uses his private income to collect drawings. He sees his family once a year: at Christmas.
In case you think this sounds appallingly gloomy, take it from me that it isn't. Thats where the genius of the novel lies.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
At one time Angus Wilson was quite popular and was expected to go far, but alas, in his own lifetime he entered obscurity, which caused him a lot of pain and histrionics. Read morePublished 16 months ago by M. Dowden
Excellent service from Revival books. A dated style but classic example of Wilson's work.Published on 3 Dec. 2014 by Jasmine P. Plant
The snobbish, anxious WASP-ish 1950s, seen from an upper-middle-class perspective; and mostly from that of Gerald Middleton, a sixty-year-old academic specialising in Anglo-Saxon... Read morePublished on 20 July 2014 by Bob Ventos
At one time Angus Wilson was quite popular and was expected to go far, but alas, in his own lifetime he entered obscurity, which caused him a lot of pain and histrionics. Read morePublished on 25 May 2014 by M. Dowden
I entirely agree with John Spain's 2-star review, but I would give the 'Faber Finds' edition only one star. It is poor, and full of printing errors. Read morePublished on 13 Aug. 2013 by Gerard L