Mr. Finchley Discovers his England

Edgar Finchley has spent his adult life in London toiling as a clerk for Mr. Bardwell, a solicitor who considered vacations unnecessary, but after Bardwell’s death, his replacement, Mr. Sprake, insists that Mr. Finchley take three weeks off — “Can’t expect my staff to do their jobs if they ain’t fit! Must have holidays,

So Mr. Finchley decides to holiday in Margate, but before he can catch his train, he’s kidnapped by a car thief, which begins his travels through his native land. He escapes from criminals, steals a car, dives into a roadside lake, fights off a raging gypsy, works as a petrol attendant for a day, spends the night in a homeless men’s lockup, and generally encounters adventures not on offer in Margate or London. As he rambles across the countryside, Mr. Finchley comes to view himself very differently— no longer just a mere solicitor’s clerk trapped in the dirty hustle and bustle of the capitol city, he’s now a man who “belong[s] in this land and … was glad of it.”

Victor Canning’s delightful novel, originally published in 1934, returns readers to an England long past, when a bachelor could take his adventures as they came. It’s a marvelous journey and one readers will embark upon many times.

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