End of empire and the English novel since 1945

This book explores the history of postwar England during the end of empire through a reading of novels which appeared at the time. Several genres are discussed, including the family saga, travel writing, detective fiction and popular romances. In the mid 1950s, Montagu Slater's brief essay in Arena is the first of a group of contributions, with the authors' warning of a growing American monopoly in cultural expression. Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers and Josephine Tey are now the best remembered representatives of the distaff side of Britain's Golden Age of crime fiction which extended well into the early postwar period. The book focuses on the reception of John Masters' novels, the sequence of novels known as the 'Savage family saga'. William Golding's 'human condition' is very much an English condition, diagnosed amid the historical upheavals of the mid-twentieth century. Popular romance novels were read by thousands throughout Britain and across the world, and can be understood as a constituent element in a postwar colonial discourse. William Boyd's fiction displays a marked alertness to the repercussions of fading imperial grandeur; his A Good Man in Africa, explores the comic possibilities of Kinjanja, a fictional country based on Nigeria. Penelope Lively's tangential approach to writing about empire in Moon Tiger suggests ambivalence and uncertainty about how to represent a colonial past which is both recent and firmly entrenched in ideas of national identity.

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