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Books: Lilies & Languors

3 minute read

VIVE LE ROY—Ford Madox Ford—Lippincott ($2.50).

To readers unaccustomed to Ford Madox Ford’s style, Vive Le Roy might seem, almost purposely confusing. It might also seem as if everyone in the book were going about in disguise—Author Ford himself in a rather hasty imitation of E. Phillips Oppenheim. Those who are not too impatient to put up with his sighing way of writing may persevere through his ingenious plot and discover that he has written a thriller. But even Ford fans will not compare Vive Le Roy with Author Ford’s War novels. Still a first-rate gossip at 62, some of his transatlantic tricks of speech are growing on him. Author Ford has never perfectly assimilated the U. S. dialect of his mother tongue, but he goes at it as bravely as ever.

The story, whose scene is Paris, is laid in the future. France, after a bitter civil war between Communists and Royalists, has become a kingdom, and the Bourbon lilies once again float over the Louvre. Walter Leroy, a young Manhattan doctor with liberal leanings, is on his way to Paris, ostensibly to pursue medical research, but actually to deliver money and a message from the U. S. Communist Party to their shattered comrades in France. On the boat with him travel M. de la Penthièvre, most potent minister of the new king; Mr. Penkethman, aged but acute sleuth connected with the League of Nations; Cassie Mathers, a lively young artist making her first trip abroad.

Sleuth Penkethman knows all about Walter from the start, drops ambiguous warnings in his ear about Penthièvre, suggests it might avert suspicion if Leroy and Cassie appeared to be lovers. Nothing loth, they do their best to keep up appearances, soon find themselves actually falling in love. Towards the end of the voyage the ship’s radio brings news of the king’s assassination in Paris; then denies it. Penthièvre and Penkethman grow more & more ambiguous; Leroy and Cassie remain naive and amorous. When they get to Paris the lovers are first delighted, then worried, by the attentions of these elderly gentlemen, who seem determined to be helpful but not to let them out of sight. After their first night in it, Leroy leaves their studio to deliver his dangerous package. Why he never gets to his destination, what becomes of him and Cassie, just how sinister MM. de la Penthièvre and Penkethman really are, and how plausible is Author Ford’s portentous plot may be left to the panting reader.

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