Charley Is My Darling by Joyce Cary


Highly recommended. Like The Moonlight, Charlie Is My Darling may well be a gateway book to Cary’s other work.

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Charlie Is My Darling has many of the elements featured in Mr. Johnson, with a different setting and just as dramatic an ending. Charley is a young London evacuee in the English countryside during WWII. Like Mr. Johnson, Charley has an uncanny ability to live in the moment without it ever occurring to him that there could be consequences. Like Mr. Johnson, he has great affection for (in Charlie’s case) a girl about his age. And, these characteristics combined with Charlie’s interest in drawing (pornographic sketches, mostly, of dubious skill), link him, too, to Gulley Jimson, the protagonist of The Horse’s Mouth, obsessed with every blank surface he comes across. All three are scoundrels, and Charley could have been the child that Gulley grew up to be.

A charming and deceptively naive story. There’s a bit of a nice backdrop to it all (wartime evacuees) against which modest but potentially ominous tale of juvenile delinquency unfolds. Cary’s sympathies are with the gang, and he is at pains to emphasize their innocence, even as they brutalize one another and their caretakers, who are shown to be as bemused and tentative (perhaps again due to the larger circumstance?) as their charges and challengers.


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