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One legged Charley Summers is finally home from the war after several years in a German prison camp only to find he must now deal with the death of his lover Rose A shell shocked romantic—slow distant and dreamy—he begins to have trouble telling Rose's half sister Nancy apart from Rose herself now buried in the village churchyard Coping and failing to cope with the uiet realities of daily life Charley's delusions elevate his timid courtship of a practical and unremarkable young woman into an amnesiac love story both comic and disturbing A contemporary of Anthony Powell and Evelyn Waugh Henry Green was one of the greatest English novelists of the twentieth century and Back is his most haunting and personal work

10 thoughts on “Back

  1. says:

    I’m BACK After having been temporarily Caught in the maelstrom of Russian 19th century literature I am now BACK in the world of Henry Green the painter of low key everyday worries of ordinary English people Living and Loving in the extraordinary times before during and after the Second World War Looking BACK on this pearl of a novel it strikes me that the title Loss or maybe rather Blindness would have suited the concept well But then I change my mind pondering BACK and forth and finally decide the characters of the novel at the BACK of my mind that BACK is the only title that encompasses all facets of the sadness and blindness of the plotSuperficially straightforward but subtly touching on the deepest inner fears of humankind it tells the story of a young man coming BACK from the war an amputee While most people mourn sons and husbands killed in action he faces the loss of his secret lover Rose a married woman who died at home while he was taken prisoner in GermanySo the home he has spent years dreaming of longing for wanting to come BACK to does not exist any How can we get BACK our past life? How can we go BACK to a place which is full of memories of the identity layers we have lost while we were gone? There is no going BACK if we have changed But we can’t turn our BACK on our home either? Because where would we go? Charley Summers tries to BACK out of dealing with the truth Slipping in and out of an imaginary alternative reality he tries to turn BACK time into an earlier status uo one that is forever lost At the same time he tries to suppress the most painful memories and get BACK to normality only to find the past hitting BACK at him hard when he is least prepared to face it And he is not the only character facing unspeakable past actions Some people fight BACK others slip BACK into a state of insanity to avoid confrontation They BACK each other in their wish to tread carefully on vulnerable reality resulting in suppressed mourning and confused feelings which find ways to get BACK to the surface“Life has a funny way of getting BACK at us sometimes” one character statesIn the end in order to be able to go on Living people have to stop looking BACK and choose to believe in Loving again That is when they get their identity BACK changed and mutilated but not Caught in the past anyHenry Green is a master of uiet truth hidden underneath words with multiple meanings When you long for your former lover Rose you see meaning in any sentence containing flowers scent or even just a verb in past tense Hearing someone say “The temperature rose” can make a loving man stumble BACK into the emotional no man’s land of irrevocable lossAnother deeply moving touching novel by Green I’ll be BACK with him soon as I am Doting on his words by now

  2. says:

    One of those books that reveals itself only once you've finally put it down but this was well worth the effort I reckon I'm a fool for this era of British novels and films and Green captures that sense of dislocation of wartime Britain with a narrative that balances a light touch with an unspoken but always present horror It felt at times a bit disjointed but eventually I came to see that as reflecting Charley's own condition; shellshocked grief stricken thrown back into civilian life and unable to confront the past sounds heavy going but this only really comes across cumulatively whilst the writing itself is funny frothy melancholy with wonderfully authentic dialogue and a kind of obsessive regard for words and their many meanings like the word 'Back' itself and 'Rose' the name of Charley's dead lover Might not be to everyone's taste but it won me over in the end

  3. says:

    The one word title suggests a lot what to make of a man who has lost something in war and back finds he has lost something at home? The former is his leg; the latter is his girl Rose Both goneThe plot what happens upon his return is actually uite interesting And I won't spoil it here But that deeper meaning eluded mePerhaps that's because I couldn't get into the 18th century story within the story that intrudes just past the midway That may have explained things But I glazed overI got though all the different usages of the word rose noun adjective verb And of course proper name But that didn't help either

  4. says:

    Brilliant It continued to grow on me for days after I finished it and it ruined anything I tried to read immediately after it

  5. says:

    This is such an exceptional book beautifully strange and challenging and yet totally accessible at the same time It seems to be happening as you are reading it because the writing is so simultaneously perfect and yet also natural and ever changing There are sentences composed with such grace and originality that I kept having to close the book and look away and let them ripple in my mind like water disturbed by a stone This book will not be for everyone but it is sort of like a combination of Kafka and Austen so if you think that would appeal to you you must read it Read it right away

  6. says:

    I received an ARC from the publisher via EdelweissThe premise of this Green novel is deceptively simple Charley Summer recently released from a POW camp in Germany during World War II is repatriated back into England Although Charley suffers from a severed leg for which he must wear a prosthesis his greatest source of pain is the love that he lost while he was in that German prison camp Rose a woman with whom he was having a passionate love affair dies from an illness before Charley is sent home We first meet Charley when he is trying to find Rose’s grave in an English churchyard and we immediately discover that the plot is much complicated than we were first led to believeCharley is shell shocked grief stricken and disoriented as he tries to settle into a job in London and reconnect with old acuaintances He visits Rose’s parents Mr and Mrs Grant who are also having a hard time dealing with the death of their daughter amidst sirens and bombings Mrs Grant is confused and displays signs of dementia; she doesn’t recognize Charley and thinks that he is her long lost brother John who died in World War I Her confusion and trauma reflects Charley’s own disoriented state of mind As Charley is departing from this painful reunion Mr Grant gives him the address of a woman named Nance whom Mr Grant reuests that the young man look up while he is in LondonCharley works in the office of a manufacturing firm in London and when they send him a new secretary his emotions become further muddled Miss Pitter a rather plain looking woman attracts Charley’s attention as he likes to start at her arms Green relates to us bits and pieces of what a character is thinking only through dialogue which is oftentimes very sparse Charley in particular is a man of few words so it is difficult to understand what is really going on inside his head But he seems at times attracted to Miss Pitter and unsure of how to proceed with her Charley’s diffidence and lingering feelings for Rose appear to keep him from acting on a possible relationship with Miss Pitter His short sentences which are oftentimes canned answers like “There you have it” and his inability to stand up for himself whenever someone is taking advantage of him make Charley a character wholly worthy of sympathy Green is a master at writing tragic characters who are awash in their sad fatesTo complicate matters even further Charley pays a visit to Nance who was recommended to him by Mr Grant When Nance opens the door to greet Charley he faints dead away because Nance looks just like his Rose The ensuing confusion over the identity of Nance and Rose reads like a bit of a slapstick “Who’s on First” type of a comedy Charley is addressing Nance as if she were Rose but Nance is completely confused and doesn’t understand what he is talking about Charley comes to the conclusion that Rose never really died but instead changed her hair color and moved to London to become a tart He spends uite a bit of time thinking of a way to get her to confess that she really is Rose These scenes are humorous but also have an underlying hint of sadness because it further highlights Charley’s emotional confusion and turmoilOne interesting aspect of Green’s writing that must be mentioned is the story he includes in the middle of the narrative It is Rose’s widower James who sends Charley a magazine story about the 18th century French court in which a woman mistakes a royal guard for her lost lover This is what the Roman poet Catullus would call a libellus a little book embedded within the story of Charley I felt that the story was only tangentially related to Charley’s predicament; there is the case of mistaken identity in both narratives but Charley doesn’t appear to learn any type of a lesson after he reads this libellus He is too involved in his own issues to gain any type of perspective and it is only very slowly and gradually through love understanding and patience that Charley begins to untangle his confused mindThis is a brief but very engrossing novel It took me the better part of a week to read and absorb all that was going on in order to write these few words about it Green uses the stress of World War II in order to highlight the madness and confusion into which a traumatized mind can so easily descend This isn’t a pretty love story but it is certainly one that is true to real human life

  7. says:

    Henry Green's Back belongs with Patrick Hamilton's books and others on the English boarding house novels shelf though not as bleak as Hamilton or Julian Maclaren Ross The back of the title is from the Second World War to a mid 40s England which is economically and emotionally eually straitened For all that this book has a transcendently joyful uality within a somewhat narrow definition of joy and I tore through it one day The jackets of all recent editions of Green's work are festooned with uotes from John Updike Anthony Burgess and others of note declaring him the best English writer of his dayHe is also for those that like connections grandfather to Matthew Yorke and once upon a time father in law to Emma Tennant both writers I admire uite a dynasty

  8. says:

    So poignantly beautiful so much tragedy so calmly depicted I found George Toles' critiue in the back of the book particularly illuminating putting into words a few of the novel's sensations that I couldn't place myself Pain insinuates itself into every corner of the unfolding rural landscape yet it is a soft pain a pain nestled in softness It is as though the reader were treading backward through the setting mildly anxious trying to be silent over ground that leaves a suishing imprint with every footfall'Would definitely recommend to anyone interested in post war literature as well as anyone looking for something that is at once readable and defiant of convention

  9. says:

    Maybe you're a fan of Henry Green NYRB is pub'ing three of his this fall LovingCaughtBackhttpwwwnyrbcomsearch?henrygreen

  10. says:

    Henry Green I love you