Weekend in Dinlock. Clancy Sigal. Seeker & Warburg. 16/-.
i don’t know Clancy Sigal personally. Perhaps if I did this review would be more sympathetic. Perhaps it would be less. I think it is a first criticism of the book that if one knew the author, one’s views on it would be different. For this book is a very personal view of a mining community in Yorkshire. It can be narrowed down still further; it is a very personal view of a group of Yorkshire Colliery Face Workers, excluding their wives, who are only seen in relation to their menfolk. Dead-beats, surface workers and clerks are in the sub-world of Dinlock.
“The women, and the lives they lead, what they talk about and think about, are still an impenetrable mystery. As soon as 1 touch on one of the thousand rawly sensitive subjects coveted and nourished by Dinlock females Loretta clams up; when I mention, as lightly as possible, family matters, she burrows as far back into herself as politeness allows, and further questions are useless. You L.S.E. firsts in sociology, come on up here and find out what these women are thinking. Where are you?
(This last sentence, if I can borrow a favourite trick of the author in the first half of the book and insert a long parenthesis, indicates another weakness. Sociologists, even from L.S.E., are surely interested in what people do and how they behave. It’s a wise man or a psychologist who knows the thoughts that father his own actions, let alone those of the women of Dinlock).
Further, it is a book about Yorkshire Miners not at work but at leisure. The Trade Union affairs that are described are those that happen outside the pit, not in it. The visit to the pit itself, intended to be the climax, is the weakest part of the book. It starts on a false note with a highly dramatised picture of the descent in the cage. Either Clancy Sigal is very sensitive or he picked a very bad Winding-Engineman. Hundreds of thousands of men go down in pit-cages everyday plunging down at a dizzying, terrifying pace into sheer, impossible blackness. I don’t suppose many are “stricken speechless” nor do they find without their willing it that their ‘head jerks up’, or their ‘eyes implore for the last sign of daylight’. Pit work is bad enough without this supersensitivity. The description of colliers going on shift at 5.30 as being like men full of fear long ago forgotten moving into battle also strikes me as over-imaginative. I would not expect many people going to work at that hour, even farm workers, to admire the view or to look up at the several cows in the field just outside the colliery.