Book Review: Loving by Henry Green

Living, Loving, Party Going

The novel Loving, by Henry Green, is a book where there is no solid plotline and nothing much happens outside of the everyday life of the servants in the story, who have been left alone for a time in the house where they work. I find Green’s style to be confusing. It often jumps from one person’s perspective to another without even a pause, as in this passage:

“’Once upon a time there were six little doves lived in a nest,’ [Miss Swift] began and Raunce came out of an unused door in the Castle wall. The rusted hinges creaked. The two girls waved but Mrs Welch’s Albert beyond Evelyn might almost have been said to cringe. Raunce put a finger to his lips. He was on his way back from the round he had made of the peacocks’ corn bins and during which he startled Kate and Edith. Then Miss Evelyn and Miss Moira each put a finger to their mouths as they went on bowing to each other. Raunce made off. Miss Swift continued, ‘Because they were so poor and hungry…’”

There is quite a lot of dialogue in the novel, and the language is also confusing. Green frequently uses words with missing letters like “d’you” for “do you,” “’em” for “them,” “I’d’ve” for “I would have,” and “’er” for “her.” He leaves out much of the necessary punctuation, as can be seen in the passage above, forcing the reader to decipher the meaning and decide where the appropriate pauses should be, as in these sentences: “I must do a bit more I suppose. I’m obliged to you for the cup of tea I was patched.” Because of the way he writes dialogue, it often has to be reread for the full meaning to come through.

It is difficult to keep track of the characters in the novel, as Green often calls them by different names or by their role. There is also the position of the butler, in which every person who has held the position has been called Arthur and there are two men referred to as Arthur throughout the novel. Agatha might be referred to simply as Agatha, but also as Miss Burch or the housemaid, and each of these names might happen within the same page. Characters will seem to come out of nowhere. In this scene, when Agatha enters the room she “found Raunce hard at it,” and then she “passed Raunce and his lad.” There is no mention that anyone else is present in the room. Then, a few lines later, we suddenly find out “Albert stopped work and stared,” and he jumps into the conversation between Raunce and his boy as if he’s been standing right next to them the entire time. This sort of character introduction creates a very confusing visual for the reader. We think we understand the room when Agatha enters because there is a brief description of what Raunce is doing in the room, so when other characters appear that were not imagined, it makes the reader disoriented.

I found this book difficult to get through due to the language, the characters, and lack of plotline. Most of the time during my reading of this novel, I was unsure what was happening, who was speaking, and who was present in the room. To add even more difficulty to the reading, there are no chapters, and section breaks are rare, so the reader is often left to stop reading in the middle of a scene.

My rating: 2 out of 5 = it was ok

Loving is available in a collection with Living and Party Going. Buy it now!

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