Books: Oh, Not to Be in England

THE CENTER OF THE GREEN (231 pp.) —John Bowen—McDowell, Obolensky ($3.50).

If novelists could kill a country, England would be a dead duck. Her young men write well, but they seem to be engaged in a running competition to see which one of them can make life in the homeland seem the most disagreeable. Certainly England has seldom seemed more tired and futile than it does in The Center of the Green, a novel edged with style and talent but filled with characters who inhabit separate islands of despair.

The leading islander is Colonel Baker, retired and gardening his life away in a...

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