George Passant

C. P. Snow

22 February 2018
444 pages


Lewis Eliot, the diffident protagonist of the Strangers and Brothers sequence, retreats to the background in this absorbing study of his mentor, George Passant, a charismatic solicitor’s clerk.

In the years of economic depression between the wars, George – an idealistic radical bursting with notions of creating the world anew – gathers about him a group of young people who, restive and ambitious, trust him to emancipate them from the constraints of their provincial lives. But when his lofty aspirations become muddied with a need for money and desire for sexual freedom, his power over the group becomes a danger to them all.

Politics, people and the rapidly changing social landscape of inter-war Britain are narrated with Snow’s trademark subtlety and precision in this fascinating analysis of a god with feet of clay.

A meticulous study of the public issues and private problems of post-war Britain, C. P. Snow’s Strangers and Brothers sequence is a towering achievement that stands alongside Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time as one of the great romans-fleuves of the twentieth century.

One of the best novels produced in England in my time
Conducted with a sympathetic impartiality and a calm integrity of observation that are reflected in a style at once matter-of-fact and sensitively precise
A remarkable book . . . the work of a man of wide intelligence and sympathy