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The Crimson Bookshelf

THE POACHER, by H. E. Bates. The Macmillan Company. New York. 1935. 273 pp. Price $2.

By A. C. B.

H. E. BATES, the very young English writer, known hitherto in this country for his volume of short stories entitled "The Woman Who Had Imagination," has produced a vivid and appealing account of the life, love and disappointments of an illegal rabbit-snarer in his novel "The Poacher."

Luke is the son of Buck Bishop who had been as a young man "a great fighter, a notorious terror, with a reputation that had never died." He instructed Luke in the profession of poaching, trained any young man who could box or run, kept a small spot of land, and made fine workmanlike shoes. He ran fourteen miles with a bullet in his groin, eluding a gamekeeper, dismist Luke's offer of assistance scornfully, and died unlacing his boots. Luke's mother, at the beginning of the story threatens to strike the bum-bailiff who has come to eject them from their home and tells him he can thank his damn stars it is the Book of God she is carrying.

Luke is seen beside the body of a dead game warden, flees, and wanders all night in a driving snowstorm. When he is taken in by a farm woman who catches him stealing the bran mash she has set out for her chickens he falls into a sickness, later works for a harsh Methodist parson whose daughter he marries, and from then on concerns himself with the gradual accumulation of wealth as a small farmer.

His wife and daughters come to treat him with growing disdain. Luke smells of the pigsty and the good black earth when he comes in from his work; mucky boots are thrown out of door. His wife becomes a country schoolmarm, and then "by 1890 the two little girls, Lizzie and Ellen, had become little dolls, with faces of white china and fair frizzy hair which crimped and rippled down their shoulders. In their stiff, thick-stuffed, many-pleated frocks they looked to him sometimes like little prim old women who

The flowering of the old man's hopes in his grandson, their great worship of each other, the ultimate disgrace which Luke brings on the whole family, are all skilfully and sympathetically presented. The book is full of rich character-interest--in Luke the author creates a figure who is real, tangilo and pathetically endearing. More fine novels by this young Englishman may be justly expected; he has here demonstrated an inspired knowledge of human nature and a thoroughly adequate technique.

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