Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Leave Cancelled by Nicholas Monsarrat

Leave CancelledLeave Cancelled by Nicholas Monsarrat
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What a strange and unexpected little novella this is, somewhat frank and racy for its time (1945) - something I’d imagine would be “banned in Boston”. Who knew Monsarrat would have written this?

The novel takes the form of a letter written by a man to his wife, describing the last 20 hours or so they spent together in London on their honeymoon (which was cut short) before he was sent away overseas to fight the war. I would imagine it had a lot of resonance at the time for young newlyweds separated.

The monologue touches on shellshock, fear, attitudes toward soldiers, hopes and fears of society after the war, cafe culture, nascent feminism, risque jokes between men and women, and about the nature of and the sustaining power of love. Also has some interesting vignettes of London during the blitz. The author himself even makes an appearance in the novel, cynically expounding on a somewhat Darwinian future at odds with the hopes of a just society held by the husband, who wishes for a more socialist vision - but whatever, it shows that people were thinking life, after all the sacrifices and death, would be different after the war - in fact maybe demanded, and so it was in the UK.

Some of it might seem little quaint to modern ears, but I think you have to place it the context of a war, and all the social upheavals and uncertainty that engendered. Anyway, it held my interest. It’s very short - maybe a three to four hour read.


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