Charles Small, the son of Jewish parents in post World War I London, wants to be an actor. He actually has some talent, but his folks will never countenance that. They also won't let him marry the love of his life, Ivy Narwhal. The novel tells the story not only of Charles and his screechingly abusive parents (actually his father is a nice enough sort, but utterly terrorized by his mother), but the parallel fortunes of Solomon "Solly" Schwartz, a clubfooted, humpbacked little man who has a knack for advertising and other capitalist ventures. More than once Solly gives Charley's father a helping hand, and a job to Charles. But Charley Small is doomed -- by his hysterical parents, his evil sister, an uncaring world, and most of all his spineless nature. Kersh's 1950 novel leaps effortlessly back and forth through time, with the usual vast array of colorful characters, but is a real downer, however well told.
This report prepared by David Loftus