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This review is taken from PN Review 59, Volume 14 Number 3, January - February 1988.

FATHER FIGURES Roy Fuller, Image of a Society (The Hogarth Press) £4.95 pb.
Roy Fuller, The Ruined Boys (The Hogarth Press) £4.95 pb.

Fuller was one of a group of authors who helped revive interest in the novel Caleb Williams some thirty years ago. The two books under review also deal with the Godwinian theme of the relationship between the individual and society. In them Fuller explores some of the ways institutions may both threaten individuality by a too-insistent demand for social conformity, and help it to grow by demarcating the limits of the self.

Both are set in institutions of which Fuller has had personal experience. Seafolde House in The Ruined Boys is an amalgam of the school in Blackpool he was sent to in 1923 and a school on the Hampshire Downs he stayed in briefly during the War, and the Saddleford Building Society in Image of a Society is a less prosperous version of the Woolwich for whom he worked for some forty years, for much of this time, like Philip Witt in the novel, as a solicitor. The hierarchies of public schools and building societies reflect wider social distinctions, but are too predominantly middle-class to be regarded as faithful microcosms of society. Nor is it Fuller's intention that they should. He tends rather to emphasize how isolated such institutions are from the rest of life. They are families in which the love-hate relationship of father and child is mirrored in the relationships between management and workers and between teachers and pupils.

The main tensions in both these novels arise less from class conflict than ...

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