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Decline


How secure is the world of Sir. James Mainwaring, Bt? 'Jumbo' Mainwaring still heads the industrial empire founded by his great-grandfather 120 years ago, and by now his responsibilities touch his country's life at many points of influence — be it the Synod of the C of E, the CBI, the Court of the Bank of England, the City of London's Corporation. Life moves in its familiar traces between the flat in Eaton Square, the City, White's Club, the Mainwaring industrial plants in the Midlands, and the beloved ancestral home at Upton in the Cotswolds. And at his side his wife, who is mother of his daughter and his son Jamie, a late offspring now emerging from Eton to take his place in the scheme of things.


But how truly secure is Jumbo's 'scheme of things'?


`I write of father and of son,' is how Tom Stacey opens Decline. So indeed he does; and Jamie's part in Decline is precisely equivalent and ,in counterpoint to his father's. The reader is carried not just to Eton and Cambridge, but Africa, post-industrial Bradford, and Wandsworth Prison. And through and around the figure of young Jamie the cracks become visible, the certainties shatter, the bolts of faith start in their sockets. Whether a family patrician, industrial magnate, or pillar of the community Jumbo and his world are surely in `decline'. . . And yet, at the very centre of both central characters, is it so?


Decline is a classic story about English upper-class life and the changing values of our times. In its portrayal of the bonds of blood, love and commitment between father and son it carries a comparable moral and social message for the 1990s to Samuel Butler's The Way of All Flesh for the 1890s. Tom Stacey's perceptions of character and society, allied to his superb command of language. reveal his true stature as a major modern novelist.


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