Book summary: The Lifeline


This is definitely not in the groove of Underground adventure -- it is a good yarn, with an unusual setting, a substantial percentage of fresh material in the plot, and characters that are three dimensional. That-plus Phyllis Bottome's name -- should pull it over the hurdle that all war books have to take... Mark Chalmer, British Public School master and mountain climber in his holidays, becomes involved in a complex pattern of Austrian-German Underground, stemming back to before Munich and after Anschluss, and bringing the sequence up to the Battle of Britain. Mark has had no intention of committing himself, when he takes a message from the Foreign Office to Father Martin; he finds himself enmeshed, -- a Britisher who speaks the language like a native, who loves Austria, who has the physical capacity for hardship -- and who already known three of the principals, Dr. Ida Eichhorn, who runs a private sanitarium where he is to be committed by Pirschl, a portrait painter who claims him as his mad brother; Pirschl himself, heading up a ""station"" in Berlin; and Father Martin. Mark, posing as a patient with moments of violence, demanding outside treatment, comes and goes under presumed medical supervision. New factors color his thought and emotions, -- there's a growing awareness of the sustaining faith in the flickering flame of freedom, there's a breakdown of tension in his idyll with Lisa, with its tragic end, and where's the thrill of the unexpected as he is let in on the secret of the saving of four of the famous dancing horses from Austria's imperial stables. Then there is the fear aspect of the story -- reminiscent, particularly with the woman psychiatrist, of Miss Bottome's Private Worlds. And there's the thorny road of his romance, with its convincing pattern of conflict and personalities at odds. At times the story bogs down in philosophical digressions. But I found it good entertaining and rewarding reading.

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