By John Lucas
Reviewed by Susan Mitchell
An old man, Tom Goodings, looks back to wartime and just after.
Stationed in an army camp near
Later, Stockdale asked Goodings to cover for him while he went home to deal with whatever problem the letter had revealed. Goodings had assumed it was probably a “Dear John” communication, where a wife or sweetheart wrote to tell a soldier that she’d met someone else. They were common enough when men were in the forces and away from home for long periods.
Goodings “turned a blind eye” and Stockdale disappeared. But later
that night the police came to the camp with the news that Stockdale
had arrived home, murdered his wife, and then committed suicide. It
was easy enough for Goodings to insist that he knew nothing about
Stockdale’s visit to
Now retired, living in Devon after a successful business life in
It would be unfair to offer too many details about what comes next. Goodings hires a private detective to dig out some basic facts, and then proceeds to follow his own lines of investigation that lead him North to several encounters that confuse at first. But soon they slowly help to unravel a tangled web of social mishaps and their consequences that affected the individuals involved, and shaped their future behaviour.
What is striking about the novel is that the various characters caught up in Goodings’ search for the truth , and there are more than Goodings who have a part to play, have some substance, They are not simply meant to provide background colour. Goodings has a wife who worries about him. And there is a son who is a journalist and working in television, and a daughter, an actress who has been moderately successful, but has never made the top grade in her profession and is prone to man trouble. They perhaps remind Goodings that his own children have grown up to be reasonable human beings despite any minor problems, and he knows where they are, but that Stockdale’s vanished into a post-war world of austerity, forced emigration for some children, and eventual industrial and social decline.
The decline is well established through the eyes of Goodings as he
journeys North and it contrasts with the modest but comfortable life
he has led in retirement. Lucas paints deft pictures of
Remembered Acts is a well-constructed novel that establishes its authenticity in a quiet and often moving manner.