This strange novel has been praised by the poet Andrew Motion. Philip Larkin is known for his reactionary views and his ability to put together poems which strike a chord with a mass audience. The book does not add to these stereotypes in a particularly significant way. Instead, its dark gloominess leaves behind a certain sadness.
The truth is that the mediocre novel does contain the expected references to the British Empire. However, these are so dull that the reader is taken along with the German heroine through her lonely and miserable existence in England. Perhaps more pity should be felt towards her, but the change in values since the book was written makes this awkward.
This is a story about England and Germany, but it does not show much about either. Instead, it is a slightly wearisome journey set out by a writer who engages in poetic techniques without the sympathy with the human predicament a reader might expect. There are several moments when the claustrophobic introspection becomes excessive:
“It was little use troubling. She could not pretend to herself that he felt towards her one-tenth of the interest she felt in him, or that the house held her more securely than a pair of cupped hands may hold a moth for a few seconds before releasing it again. She could only hope that the burden of this new love would be taken off her before it betrayed her into actions she would regret.”