Brian McFarlane’s small book on Martin Boyd’s Langton novels is a particularly measured and useful study. He makes no grand claims for Boyd but sees and appreciates him for the writer that he is when he is at his best, and the Langton novels – The Cardboard Crown, A Difficult Young Man, Outbreak of Love, and When Blackbirds Sing – certainly see Boyd at his best.
Boyd does not by any means offer limitless possibilities to the student, and most of what McFarlane is saying has been noticed before. But what is so pleasing about this study is the balance and the calm clear-sighted way in which the author assesses Boyd. To use Boyd’s own words, McFarlane assesses his subject with ‘intelligent kindness’. This does not of course imply any lack of critical toughness – it is simply a starting point.