The Philistines by Guy McCrone

Black & White, 1993, 190 p. In Wax Fruit. First published 1947.

Well, it didn’t. Improve that is. The faults that beset Antimacassar City are still to the fore here. The focus of this second in the trilogy is on the youngest of the Moorhouse brothers, David, who begins to wonder, despite never having formed any attachment of the sort, if he ought to take himself a wife. He consults his sister-in-law Bel who asks if there is anyone who has shown any interest in him. There is of course; one Grace Dermott, whose ageing father is the head of Dermott Ships Limited. This would be another advantageous match for the family, whose members seem to be able to climb the social ladder almost effortlessly. Not quite as advantageous as eldest brother Mungo’s marriage into the Ayrshire quality (shipping was after all still ‘trade’ in those days) but good enough.

The fly in the ointment comes with the appearance in the tale of the Moorhouse’s former neighbour from the next door farm in Ayrshire, a childhood friend of David’s, Lucy Rennie, who has made a name for herself singing under the under the name Lucia Reni.

This is fiction designed as entertainment and also to appeal to a certain kind of municipal pride. Too much is told, not shown, the characters resemble puppets, present more to enable the plot than to live and breathe for themselves, and McCrone is keen to insert snippets of Glasgow’s history of the times. In addition he shies away from describing the compromises and accommodations Lucy had made in order to become a reasonably successful singer, merely hinting at past liaisons. Then again I don’t suppose on first publication in 1947 that any such content would have been comfortable to the douce readership he seems to have aimed for.

Pedant’s corner:- “In a year or to” (two,) a missing comma before a piece of direct speech inside a sentence (x 2.) “Etiquette was being flaunted at every turn” (was being flouted,) “a childhood’s friend” (normally not rendered with an apostrophe. ‘a childhood friend’.) “The entire Butter family were at home” (that ‘entire’ makes the subject of the verb singular; ‘the entire family was at home’.) Ditto “Everybody that was anybody …. were filing into her drawing room” (everybody …. was filing into.)

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