Books: Justice & the Governess

A TRAIN OF POWDER (310 pp.)—Rebecca West—Viking ($3.75).

Rebecca West, firm, formidable, and possessed of a frown like a side of the Grand Canyon, likes to see her nouns buttressed by stout adjectives like "fatuous," "obscene" and "idiotic"; even "bitchery" is in her vocabulary. At worst, her hardbitten prose is that of an obsessive governess threatening children with hellfire; at best, it expresses an energetic mind absorbed in the pursuit of common sense and justice. In A Train of Powder Author West examines with Old Testament sternness some recent efforts to bring malefactors...

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