Avalanche, a novel by Kay Boyle. 8vo., 209 pages. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1944. Price $2.50.
Avalanche has been widely heralded as a story of the French underground in the mountains of the Haute Savoie, by a writer who knows that region intimately, and has a high reputation as a stylist—in other words, as an adventure story, plus. Perhaps I came to it expecting too much, for I found myself greatly disappointed. Taken as a spy story, it furnishes pleasant entertainment competently, in the tradition of the Saturday Evening Post where it first appeared—offering a well-constructed, if somewhat implausible, plot, with plenty of suspense and fast action, and good local color. The interesting and convincing pictures of the mountain villages, and of the attitudes of their inhabitants under the occupation, bear witness to Miss Boyle’s first-hand knowledge— she was in France until well into 1941. But one familiar with the subtle rhythms of the author’s usual prose finds it here hardened into a set of fixed mannerisms, which become more and more annoying as they appear on page after page. And when the story leaves the valley of Chamonix (called “Truex” in the book) and goes above snowline, then false notes and improbabilities become frequent, revealing a disturbing lack of more than the most superficial acquaintance with mountaineering. One should perhaps be thankful for small mercies—at least nobody ties a rope around a chimney preparatory to a descent, as in another recent climbing story. But even in admittedly popular fiction, one had hoped for a fine and authentic treatment of mountains from Miss Boyle.