Patience by John Coates - review

By Alfred Hickling

The Persephone imprint concerns itself principally with reissuing obscure books by women. It makes an exception for John Coates's 1953 comic novel, as he seemed to have no difficulty inhabiting the mind of the eponymous heroine – a devout Catholic and biddable young wife who for seven years has "lived in a state which varied from supreme contentment when having tea with her babies, to passive unresistance when being made love to by her husband". The story concerns Patience's discovery that sin may be more fulfilling than duty, having fallen passionately in love with a young pianist, while her husband Edward – who turns out to have been not entirely faithful himself – huffs and puffs at this show of disobedience. Coates created a nimble satire, blowing on the dying embers of Victorian double standards before the permissive society took over. There's a well-rounded portrait of the stodgy, patrician Edward, who has "the bluff, handsome exterior and rather shabby interior of a first-class, second-rate politician".

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Alfred Hickling

The GuardianTramp

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