‘Just lie back and think of England’ – it’s that kind of novel. Don’t expect too much and you might be surprised at what you csn find to enjoy in this piece. Richard Stent (one half of a matched character pair with Noel Coward) is told by his agent – ‘I know some lovely people at Ebury who will print any old nonsense and give you a whacking big advance.’ – it’s certainly true. Jests aside (and that is one of Julian Clary’s) this is a fresh, readable and enjoyable piece with some clever plotting and presentation with plenty of sly wit and double entendres culminating in a deus ex machina you won’t see coming in the form of a play on the otherwise obscure title. The only ‘puzzle’ for me was the name ‘Stent’ – perhaps I am too fond of looking for obscurities that just aren’t there.
Goldenhurst, an ancient Kentish house is owned in real life by Clary but is presented as the serial home (as in private retreat) of Noel Coward and his lover Jack, then briefly by a lascivious Clary and then Richard Stent (a 50’s closeted movie and stage star) and his lover. The house, its history and possible ghostly inhabitants is the focal point for the action which idles from gossipy, familial, action, drama, to some sex and fashion to interior decorating.
The piece is well-structured dramatically with a growing sense of a dramatic conclusion as alternating episodes become shorter and should please any relaxed reader who is not looking for profundity but will take pleasure from its gradual revelations and partially hidden asides and insights, both sly and surprising (like those ‘briefs encountered’).