The Phoenix Generation

Paperback, Pocket Classics series, Alan Sutton, 1999.

Book condition: a fine copy, unread and as new.
Price: £10.00


Volume 12 in the 15-volume A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight series.


The publisher's blurb for the first edition (1965) states: 'This is a novel of the last decade before the outbreak of the Second World War, and of the generation so harshly judged by the Angry Young Men of today. It begins at a General Election party given by Gordon Selfridge in his Oxford Street store on the night in May, 1929, when Labout came into power again, with Hereward Birkin one of the bright hopes of the new Ramsey Macdonald Government. But the Government is unable to undertake its programme of social reconstruction. Unemployment increases, the times are out of joint. Birkin, a veteran of 1914, resigns office and goes into the streets to "arouse the people". He sees international finance as the cause of the world's sickness and describes it as "this Minotaur which claims another generation of European youth to bleed to death on the battlefields".


'Henry Williamson brilliantly conveys all sides of this troubled and decadent period. His hero, Phillip Maddison, sees the survivors of the Western Front as a phoenix generation impelled to reject the past in order to make a country "fit for heroes". And yet a man must put himself in order before he attempts to reform his fellows. Phillip, however, remains aloof from any direct action. He is an observer who will one day write his own history of the Great War and its aftermath. Meanwhile he is deeply involved in personal problems: the mutual longing between himself and Melissa, a young girl chivalrously regarded; Lucy, his maternal wife and the mother of his children; Felicity who clings to him because she believes her father was killed in the war.


'The times cry aloud for reform, but how far is Phillip, and "the waifs and strays among the survivors of his generation", impelled by a neurotic self-drive to renew his own youth? And looming over the whole scene is the Faust-like figure of Hitler, a phoenix if ever there was one, preaching that the new Europe will be on based on a thousand years of peace.'


(For a further consideration of the book and the background to the writing of it, see Anne Williamson's The Phoenix Generation.)