In This Above All, Eric Knight explores the meaning of patriotism through the experiences of the English between the Dunkirk evacuations and the London blitz.
Private Clive Briggs is on leave when he meets Prudence Cathaway. They have a roll in the hay, then spend a week together at sea coast hotel.
Clive has had his fill of war. He has no intention of going back. He spends most of the book telling Prue about how the war treats poor slum kids like him as disposable units. Prue counters with platitudes drawn from her experience growing up as the daughter of a well-to-do brain surgeon.
Some of Knight’s verbal snap shots of the war in France and Clive’s youthful work experiences are superb. On the whole, however, This Above All is disjointed and disappointing.
Knight resists the temptation to produce a happy ending, but grabs nearly every other lure for the unwary novelist. He holds Prue and Clive up like marionettes and fills their mouths with speeches. Periodically, he abandons them entirely and pops in on Prue’s relatives who have nothing to do with the main plot.
In the end, the novel is as platitudinous the speech from which the title is taken.This Above All
By Eric Knight
Grosset & Dunlap, 1941
My grade: C-