The Halt During the Chase by Rosemary Tonks / ISBN 9780811237451 / 218-page paperback, reprinted in 2023 by New Directions
Finally back in print, a remarkable, hilarious coming-of-age novel from the cult classic writer Rosemary Tonks.
Sophie―a clever and charming young woman―is trying to get out from under her mother’s thumb. She’s in love with her childhood friend Philip (pragmatic, attractive, a bit of a bore), but she often worries that she loves him too much for her own good, and that he might only be another thumb to crawl under.
Both a sincere bildungsroman of Sophie’s attempt to seize a life for herself and a comic masterpiece with cutting observations and asides, The Halt During the Chase is flutteringly alive as it discusses different forms of love, adulthood (“Isn’t buying new lampshades a form of slow death?”), marriage, insecurity, and stifling British snobbery and classism. Sophie’s voice, fueled by Tonks’s acidic narration, evolves from thrashing about in various traps into a triumphant, croaky-throated liberation song.
Rosemary Tonks (1928-2014) was a colorful figure in the London literary scene during the 1960s. She published two poetry collections, Notes on Cafés and Bedrooms and Iliad of Broken Sentences, and six novels, from Opium Fogs to The Halt During the Chase. Tonks wrote for the Observer, The Times, New York Review of Books, Listener, New Statesman and Encounter, and presented poetry programs for the BBC.