Old Pybus Is Guilt-Free Romance

During the early days of World War I, bookseller John Pybus exhorted men to enlist. His own sons, Conrad and Probyn, preferred to serve in protected occupations that lined their pockets.

Their father disowned them.

Years later, they learn he is the “boots” at a country hotel.

Probyn’s son Lance learns of his grandfather’s existence and looks him up. They bond immediately. Lance calls his grandfather “the Venerable.”

When Lance wants to become a writer instead of going into his father’s business, Old Pybus supports him. Through his grandfather, Lance meets a woman with whom he falls in love. And the Venerable is also responsible for Lance developing an adult relationship with his parents.

Much of the plot of Old Pybus is predictable. However, the novel’s interest isn’t the plot but the characters. At first glance, Lance looks like a standard-issue hero, but on longer acquaintance he exhibits all sorts of quirks, becomes pig-headed and sometimes acts downright stupid. He is, in short, human — a very fine thing for a book character to be.

If Old Pybus had been written by someone other than Warwick Deeping, the story could have dissolved into sentimental claptrap. By making readers his confidants and reminding them real life isn’t this tidy, Deeping lets readers revel in the romance without the tiniest feeling of guilt.

Old Pybus
By Warwick Deeping
Alfred A. Knopf, 1928
350 pages
1928 bestseller #7
My Grade: B +
© 2009 Linda Gorton Aragoni
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Linda Aragoni

I read. I write. I think. I make big ideas simple. I help teachers teach expository writing to teens and adults. In my free time, I read and review old novels.

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