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David James All this from Stanley Middleton's novel, fortuitously entitled Holiday!

David James Stanley Middleton, Holiday

‘Fifty years hence, someone will pull me out of his head. I am not displeased.’ Thus Stanley Middleton in his poem recalling names from the past. Author of over 40 novels, joint winner of the Booker Prize in 1975, Middleton refused an honour from the Wilson government, and published Holiday to refute Auberon Waugh’s dictum that flashbacks were the death of any good novel.

In fact flashback is here an inherent part of the structure of Holiday, whose hero, Edwin Fisher during a period of marital breakdown tells of his childhood, school life, courtship and his disastrous marriage to Meg, a woman who is his very antithesis.

The novel begins in an East Coast seaside resort, where Fisher has gone to escape from constant domestic squabbles with his bellicose wife. While he drifts from beach to bar, from church to his digs with their lace curtains and view of rooftops and television aerials, he meets a range of tramps, holidaying families, sunbathing girls, and ultimately chances upon his father-in-law, David Vernon. The one thing that Edwin and Meg have in common is an imposing and embarrassing father. But while Edwin’s father is safely dead, Meg’s is only too alive. David Vernon has clearly arrived at the resort as a peacemaker, a friendly but interfering solicitor, who after puffing and blowing sits down ‘raising the tails of his coat,’ and says ‘I was sorry to hear about your business,’ meaning the marital break-up.

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