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J.B. Priestley


Book review by Anthony Campbell. The review is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence.
The three men have just been demobbed from the army at the end of the Second World War and are wearing civvy suits that have been given to them. One is a sergeant, one is a corporal, and the third is a private. The sergeant is from the county gentry and could easily have obtained a commission but chose to remain as a NCO. The corporal is the son of a prosperous farmer, while the private, who is physically strong but with little education, used to work in a quarry.

The story follows the fortunes of the three characters as they try to come to terms with life outside the army. The private has the most difficult time; he finds that his wife has been sleeping around with American soldiers during his absence and this drives him to take to drink and fighting, which leads to a confrontation with the police. The farmer finds that his father has bought a second farm and wants to give the original one to him. He ought to be overjoyed at the news but finds that he feels quite flat about it. The sergeant finds that the values he accepted in his old life before the war no longer have meaning for him. He meets a newspaper magnate who offers him a well-paid job as a journalist. An old girlfriend, now married, makes herself available for an affair. On the superficial level everything seems to be going well but he feels that he is on a wrong path of life.

The private begins to feel he is on the verge of a serious breakdown in which he might kill someone. He seeks help from the corporal, who says they need to consult the sergeant. This they do, and all three find new ways to take their lives forward in a different way.

Although it isn't spelt out specifically, it is pretty clear that all three characters are moving towards socialism. The sergeant, as the most articulate of the three, makes quite a long speech about this. The book is very much of its time and is all about class, but it remains readable in spite of being dated.


%T Three Men in New Suits
%A Priestley, J.B.
%I William Heinemann Ltd
%C London, Toronto
%D 1945
%P 170 pp
%K fiction

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