Wednesday, September 23, 2009

'Little Man' by G. Herbert Sallans

Little Man by G. Hervert Sallans won the 1942 Governor General's Award for Fiction. The novel focuses on the life of George Battle largely from his time in the First World War with an artillery unit in the trenches to the beginning ot the Second World War. The bulk of the novel takes place in the Interwar period when George raises a family and attempts to survive the Great Depression.

Little Man is reminiscent of F. Scott Fitzgerald's and Hemingway's novels in a sense. The time period is similar, and while George raises a family, the novel is concerned primarily with George, his wife Joy, their close friend Bo, and George's cousin Pitch. While the four friends are not quite the rollicking characters of Tender is the Night, the dynamic is reminiscent of both Fitzgerald and Hemingway, though not stylistically.

The quartet of Bo, George, Joy, and Pitch drive the novel and Sallans does an excellent job of developing them strongly. In particular, George emerges as very true, possessing both strengths and insecurities and often vascillating rapidly between them. He speaks for the 'little man' because he is one, and yet he shows signs of being able to grow beyond.

Little Man deals with deep issues such as love, war, loss, and (in)equality. However, it does so in a deft touch that never bogs down. It is serious and compelling and too ambiguous to be overly pessimistic. In case it isn't obvious yet, Little Man is an excellent novel, and I highly recommend it.