Book summary: The Secret Stair

1954 BY PHYLLIS BOTTOME

Bearing closest analogy to Private Worlds. The Secret Stair is again a story of the inside life of a T.B. sanitarium. The setting is Switzerland- near Davos- and there are glimpses of the stark beauty of snow- shrouded and vast, and occasional glimpses of skiing, chamois hunting, the perilous ascent of an icy toboggan slide. But in the main the story centers in the hospital itself, where two divergent influences are brought to bear when a spoiled, neurotic girl, intent on being the focus of real and imagined romance, and a saintly priest of the Anglican order, come as patients in seriously advanced stages of of the disease, and are shortly involved in the already complex situations on the staff. The head doctor, whose sense of justice outweighs his humanity, is succeeding- he thinks- in insulating both himself and his wife from participation in normal living. Two other doctors, both one time members of the Underground Resistance forces, are caught up in the situation. And Caroline, the girl, serves as catalyst in the troubled situation. Miss Bottome's autobiographical writings -- particularly The Challenge --increase the reader's awareness of her own intimate and first hand knowledge of sanitarium life, routine and inter-relationships.

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