Love in all its guises

2011-05-11 00:00

THIS is a gentle novel about an amiably inquisitive writer, Harry Chapman, who finds himself “where he had long feared to be” — in hospital.

In his hospital bed he is visited by nurses (mostly kindly), doctors, fellow patients, a long-time friend, and also by the imagined voices of people from his past and characters from books he has loved.

Harry (and by extension the author too) has a good ear and eye. He listens productively and observes with delicacy, so that even “the constant trickle of the insignificant” brings not only comfort to Harry but pleasure to the reader.

Harry grew up in working-class London in “the mean, poky streets between the gasworks and the candle factory”, in the shadow of two world wars and his overbearingly reproachful mother. His unassuming father Frank had fought in the killing fields of Flanders in World War 1, but it was only long after his father’s death that Harry found out that Frank had won two medals for bravery.

His mother Alice (nicknamed Malice by her usually serene sister Rose, herself dubbed Rosy Glow by Alice) did her best to bring Harry down to earth from “Planet Make-Believe”. But it is Harry’s creative imagination that enables him to escape from his childhood environment.

First an actor, he becomes a writer, and his hospital reveries reveal not only his romance with theatre, music, literature, art and Italian cooking, but his romantic life and sometimes complicated love affairs.

In the hospital the nurses ask the ailing but amiable Harry to recite from memory some of his favourite poems.

If you are not familiar with the literature that Harry loves so well, he may not be that sympathetic. “You cannot write well unless you have read well,” he recalls telling a class of creative-writing students.

And by extension Harry believes that if you have read well, you will live well. What counts in the end it seems, is poetry, music, “subtle cooking” and champagne, and most importantly of all, love in all its guises. It turns out that Alice does not have the last word after all.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.