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Staircase in Surrey Books In Order

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Publication Order of Staircase In Surrey Books

The Gaudy (1975)Description / Buy at Amazon
Young Pattullo (1975)Description / Buy at Amazon
Memorial Service (1976)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Madonna of The Astrolabe (1977)Description / Buy at Amazon
Full Term (1979)Description / Buy at Amazon

Staircase in Surrey refers to a series of contemporary novels by Michael Innes, a Scottish novelist. The books are set in the fictional college of Oxford University (where the writer once studied). The “Staircase in Surrey” in the title is used to refer to the student’s rooms in this college. The books focus mainly on Duncan Patullo, the playwright, who tells this story in first-person narration.

Michael Innes began his Staircase in Surrey series in 1974 with the first novel, The Gaudy. The last novel in the series, Full Term, was published in 1978. Below is a comprehensive description of the first two books in A Staircase in Surrey series.

The Gaudy

The first novel in Michael Innes’ acclaimed ‘Staircase in Surrey’ series is The Gaudy. The book opens in Oxford University at the eponymous annual dinner hat was laid on by the Fellows for their past members. Several distinguished guests, even including the Chancellor (former Prime Minister) are also present and Duncan Pattullo, who is now also qualified to attend, gets a chance to meet some of his enemies and friends from the undergraduate days. As the day wears on, Duncan Pattullo finds himself embroiled in several problems and difficulties faced by some of the people including Lord Marchpayne, the Cabinet Minister along with Ranald McKenechnie, Don and Gavin Mogridge who’s famous for the account that he wrote about his adventures in the South American jungle.

This book is simply marvelous. Having been written with effortless grace, it’s a very beautiful paean to Oxford University as well as the academic life even though it doesn’t refrain from sending up the internecine and pomposity plotting of the dons. This is the first of the series of 5 novels which represents the finest roman fleuve in the academic setting.

The book opens with Duncan Pattullo, an Oxford alumnus who is returning to the old college in the early 1970’s. This is the first time that Duncan Pattullo has returned to the college in more than 20 years since his graduation. He’s there to attend the Gaudy (this is a celebratory dinner for the old members of the college). Right from the beginning Duncan Pattullo is overwhelmed with nostalgia, put up in his older rooms and nearly bums into his old teacher. This nostalgia is slightly discomforting, even though he soon meets Tony Mumford, his closest friend during the student days. However, they had never met in the course of the intervening 20 years.

Mumford has been quite successful since his graduation. Having made a great fortune in the City, Mumford embarked on a career in politics; a career that has managed to take him into the House of The Lords. On the particular day of a Gaudy, there’s a government reshuffle. The day’s evening news include an announcement about his elevation to work in the Cabinet. However, Mumford does have a hidden motive in coming back to this college as it transpires that Ivo, his son is struggling so hard to pass the end of the year examinations and his future in this college delicately hangs in the balance.

Pattullo also meets Gavin Moggridge, the unremarkable student that had inadvertently embarked on a different career of dazzling adventure and Cyril Bedworth, the formerly dim undergraduate, who 2 decades before had viewed both Mumford and Pattullo with untrammeled admiration. During the course of the formal dinner, Duncan Pattullo’s attention wavers in between the present days and the undergraduate days (and even the earlier schooldays while still in Edinburgh), and his own perceptions are constantly being re-defined.

The portrait of Albert Talbert, an aging tutor whose unrivalled grasp on the world around is lacking in acuity just as his name is lacking in the euphony. In fact, Edward Pococke, the unusually urbane Provost of this College, are excellently drawn yet they never succumb to the cliché. The plot is mainly set on the careworn scout on Duncan Pattullo’s old staircase along with Nick Junkin, the engaging but slightly mentally dislocated undergraduate who currently occupies Duncan Pattullo’s old rooms is so credible that you’ll certainly enjoy everything.

Michael Innes was a noted academic giant himself, producing numerous detailed analyses of the early 20th century literature and he was among the most dexterous exponents of the ‘cozy’, a gentleman detective genre. However, the sequence that this book opens will surely remain to be the crowning glory of Michael Innes’ fruitful career.

Young Pattullo

Young Pattullo is the second book of the Staircase in Surrey Series. Duncan arrives in Oxford University where he is destined to be housed around the quadrangle that his father has chosen just for its visual and architectural appeal. While on staircase in Surrey, Duncan Pattullo meets those who later become his new companions and friends, and there occurs the usual student digressions and antics that are described by Michael Innes with his characteristic wit so as to enthrall and amuse the reader. However, after the punting accident, the girl who’s in love with Pattullo suffers as a result of Duncan’s self-sacrificing actions. Anna, his cousin is also involved in another affair, but she decides to withhold the name of her lover in spite of being pregnant. This twist reaches the ironical conclusion towards the end of this novel, in another Michael Innes’ favorite locations; Italy. As a matter of fact, Young Pattullo covers all the favorite places and subjects of the writer; the arts, mystery, intrigue and learning whilst ranging from his much treasured Oxford University, through Scotland along with the inevitable Italian venue. This second book the Staircase in Surrey series can be read as a standalone book or in order of the series.

Michael Innes’ masterful cameos aren’t just restricted to Duncan’s fellow students. The provost of this College, Edward Pococke, is a picture of urbanity and he tends to lean towards the courteous litotes while Pattullo’s two personal teachers, the mage-like B Timbermill and the permanently distracted Talbert Albert are particularly drawn in finely. J B Timbermill, who teaches Duncan Pattullo the wonders of Middle English and Anglo-Saxon literature is clearly molded on J R Tolkien.

Alongside the extremely beautiful depiction of Oxford University in the 1940s, the author also gives a good insight into Pattullo’s far from the conventional home life that includes the slightly mad uncle, a self-styled laird of the Glencorry whose Highland retreat Pattullo visits at length. This is a very interesting book that will certainly keep the reader looking out for the next book in the series.

Book Series In Order » Characters » Staircase in Surrey

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