Books Read in 2014 – 58. A Kind of Loving – Stan Barstow

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Genre: Romance, Masculinity

Narrative Style: First Person, Chronological11816034_f260

Rating 3.5/5

Published: 1960

Format: Kindle

Synopsis: Vic Brown is looking for the right woman and when Ingrid catches his eye, he thinks she may be the one. What starts off romantic quickly becomes lustful and Vic is caught between his longing for sex and his knowledge that he doesn’t like Ingrid that much. Then the worst happens: she gets pregnant and he has to marry her. 

I had seen the film A Kind of Loving about twenty years ago and I really enjoyed it so I was looking forward to reading it. And it was quite enjoyable. There were just a few annoying little things that kept me from giving it a higher rating.

Vic Brown is a typical man of the fifties. He is young, employed and has money in his pocket. His narrative voice is quite charming and flows along nicely. He is cultured and wants to make something of himself. He is on the cusp of manhood, thinking himself to be the only one of his friends who hasn’t had sex (this turns out not to be true) and also wanting a loving wife who would also be a friend.

At the beginning, he adores Ingrid from a distance, thinking himself in love with her. And at first, they get on well enough. However, when Ingrid lets him go a bit further than he expected, he becomes confused as to whether he still likes her or just lusts after her. He vows not to see her but she drags him back in. He finds that although he should behave better towards her, he does not because he is caught by his lust.

There is no doubt that Imogen is shoddily treated by Vic. She is similarly caught in the mores of the day, wanting to discover her own sexuality but also knowing that it wasn’t approved of. One of the difficult things about reading this was not to give her a more modern psyche and make her voice stranger and louder.

When she gets pregnant, Vic agrees to marry her and then has to move in with her and her mother because they haven’t the money to find their own place. It is here that Barstow really gets to criticise the current morality. Ingrid’s mother is monstrous, attempting to control her daughter and determined that it must have been all Vic’s fault. She very nearly destroys any chance they have of making any sort of loving out of their situation.

The ending is quietly optimistic and Barstow buts his faith in the younger generation being able to sort out their own lives without the interference of the older generation. They move out of her mother’s house and into their own space, giving their future at least a fighting chance. But it isn’t a cloying they all lived happily ever after ending either. The moral being if they mess it up at least they’ll know who to blame.

So to the things that stopped it being rated higher. I always find it a bit difficult to read a novel like this because I can’t help hoping for the female character to fight back a bit and Ingrid was a bit of a drip. There were strong women in this book but they both used their strength to control everything and everyone so they weren’t exactly positive. And while I obviously understand that a novel is definitely of its time, that doesn’t necessarily make it any easier to read. The final thing that annoyed me was Vic’s choice of bint as a generic term for all women. I really dislike the word. And while he uses it in much the same way as you might use bird, it still really got on my nerves.

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