Joyce Cary (1888-1957) is indisputably one of the finest English novelists of this century. His reputation at his death equaled those of such contemporaries as Aldous Huxley and Evelyn Waugh. Written in his last years, his "Second Trilogy” (Prisoner of Grace, Except the Lord, and Not Honour More) shows the mature Cary at his most brilliant, as he unfolds the tragicomedy of private lives compromised by politics and religion. While in his earlier trilogy (Herself Surprised, To Be a Pilgrim, and The Horse's Mouth) he pits the visionary artist against an indifferent but by no means dull world, in his masterful "Second Trilogy" he maps that gray landscape between good and evil where life is at its most dangerous. The first volume (Prisoner of Grace, 1952) introduces Nina Woodville and the two men in her troubled life: Chester Nimmo and Jim Latter, each in turn husband and lover. Except the Lord (1953) is Chester Nimmo's story, told in his own words. It is the tale, however, not of his fortuitous marriage into the local gentry and subsequent political success but of his childhood and youth in the West Country. Growing up amid the rural poverty and ignorance of mid-Victorian England, Nimmo, the son of a stableman and preacher, is forced at a young age to find a middle way between his evolving radical ideas and his deeply felt fundamentalism. In this affecting portrait, Joyce Cary throws open to question not so much the fad of Nimmo's hypocrisy as the motive behind it. We come to understand him as a man dependent on and racked by his love of strong women, with his eyes looking ever toward heaven.
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