There is a story behind this book. It was originally published by Jonathan Cape in 1956, when Philip Callow was thirty-two, and was his first novel. It received several positive reviews, but was withdrawn and pulped when someone claimed that he could be recognised as one of the characters in the book and that he’d been libelled. John Lucas in his useful introduction to this new edition states that the person concerned was a Nottingham newsagent.
Like many first novels The Hosanna Man is clearly autobiographical. The central character, Louis, is at a loose end in Coventry and decides to move to Nottingham in pursuit of Stella, a married woman with whom he has had an affair. He’s young and shy, and she has obviously had other relationships and appears to thrive on the kind of edginess they bring. As she says at one point, “I love an intrigue,” and blowing hot and then cold is a part of the game for her. Louis is confused and his situation isn’t helped by the fact that he hasn’t a job, and the accommodation he has found in Nottingham isn’t likely to offer an opportunity for him to develop his talents for watercolours and writing poetry. He has taken lodgings with an elderly couple who are almost-Dickensian in their behaviour and odd relationship. Some of Callow’s skills as a writer can be seen at work in his descriptions of these people.
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