U is for Updale

For U, I read Johnny Swanson by Eleanor Updale, the author of the Montmorency novels.

Updale has the remarkable ability to create characters--in this case Johnny and Montmorency--who are not entirely sympathetic yet engage the empathy of the reader. The first 1/2 of Johnny Swanson presents the background of a possible grifter. Understandable if not entirely likable.


With the mother's arrest, however, the novel changes considerably in tone and purpose. It's a fast read, and Updale does a fantastic job capturing the time period (England between the two World Wars). She also is quite willing to showcase the seamy, unpleasant side of human nature. Unfortunately, this makes the sudden and considerable niceness of the characters in the conclusion a tad unrealistic. My experience--and my reading of cognitive dissonance--is that people tend to stick more closely to their opinions when disproved, not less.

Cardiff Police 1930
It seems far more likely to me that the police in Johnny's hometown would continue to insist on the rightness of their arrest than to instantly accept the version propounded by Johnny and the Welsh police, no matter how accurate. They might even be a tad irritated with Johnny for showing them up and respond by accusing him of hiding information (even though they were the ones that wouldn't listen--hey, human beings aren't consistent!).

Consequently, I felt a little uncomfortable with the resolution. It seemed so entirely unlikely based on the prior half of Updale's novel.

I do highly recommend Updale in general, especially the Montmorency novels.

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