A London Story (George Buchanan, 1935)

Two brothers are both employed by Lord Flowerfield at Drancers department store in London, but John and Nicholas could not be less alike. John is, to use the newly imported Americanism, a go-getter. He’s loud, brash, and assertive, focused entirely on advancing himself and increasing his income. He allows no fault in others and admits of no fault in himself. Nicholas, meanwhile, finds the whole commercial world to be nothing but a hollow facade propped up by old men of inherited wealth and titles with no convictions beyond a terror of a changing social order.

Nicholas is fired, and at the height of the Great Depression, his prospects for finding another job are close to nil. He becomes dejected by the scorn he faces. He’s the product of his generation, they say: a lazy good-for-nothing, expecting of everything and deserving of nothing; he could find a job if only he chose to. After months of failure, he’s reached the point of giving up. With his last few pounds, he rents a car and speeds away with suicidal abandon.

In the hospital, after the crash, Nicholas is met with Phillida, who takes a keen interest in his well-being. Phillida briefly dated John and before the wreck had only the slightest acquaintance with his brother. She and John had parted ways largely because she wasn’t impressed by his bluster and that’s all he was looking for. He found it in Beryl. Beryl found in him a money machine.

The friendship between Nicholas and Phillida grows into love and the two wed. John marries Beryl. As they were in worklife, the brothers could not be less alike in homelife, either. Nicholas has found a job — not a very good one and not one he enjoys, but it’s something. He and Phillida are very happy in their little two-room apartment. Beryl does well enough in the lap of luxury, but John is miserable. He never deceived himself that Beryl loved him, but her cold and impersonal treatment proves to be more cutting than he could imagine. He’s distracted, he loses control. All his go-getter attributes slip away, he finds himself on Flowerfield’s bad side, and is soon without a job.

Inscription: A small plate is pasted on the outside front cover that reads “Camden Public Library, 14 Days”. That would be Camden, Maine. No other markings.

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