The Package

The Package

The Package

Description

The Medways’ problem is not unusual; after all, as Jane Medway reads in a pamphlet on the subject, childlessness afflicts one marriage in seven. For her husband Paul, busy building up his practice with a firm of architects, the problem is naturally of much less importance than it is for his wife. It seems to him to have become obsessive and so he arranges for them to go on a package holiday to Tunisia.

 

Jane, of course, takes her obsession with her and so her rather unconventional solution to the problem is worked out against a background of tourist outings, visits to Arab villages and archaeological sites, shopping in the souk. Then there are the other holiday-makers to contend with, notably the Ackroyds, an absurd, generous and argumentative couple from Yorkshire, who are always ready with offers of company and unsolicited advice.

 

At first dismayed by them, Jane gradually comes to realize that the Ackroyds’ marriage with its outspokenness and constant disagreements is much stronger than their own, for she and Paul are so inhibited and over-solicitous of each other’s feelings that real communication only exists between them in the rare outburst of a quarrel.

 

The theme is a serious one in which Margaret Bacon employs with sensitivity and skill her gift of insight into human relationships, but it is also a funny story with moments of high comedy.

 

Reviews

In “The Package,” Margaret Bacon once more displays her ability to leaven a serious theme with delightful flashes of humour. Again she shows her talent for travel writing to provide a rich and authentic background for a penetrating character analysis.

 

This time the ambience is a package holiday in Tunisia; the main theme a woman’s obsession with her childlessness and its effect on her marriage. Working in flashbacks from the holiday, the reader is gradually presented with a history of the marriage and traces the growth of the obsession.

 

Jane Medway loves her husband, but she and Paul have never been able to communicate effectively: never been able to break through the shield of reserve with which Paul has surrounded himself. On the surface he is the most level-headed, sane and conventional person one could imagine. Underneath however, he is inhibited almost to the point of neurosis.

 

Jane receives her first shock and intimation of what the future holds for their marriage on the rather unsatisfactory honeymoon they spend in the Scillies. Time passes, with Paul absorbed in building up a consortium of architects and Jane brooding more and more about their failure to produce a family.

 

This preoccupation with her childlessness and the impossibility of discussing the matter with Paul, grows in Jane’s mind until it assumes the monumental proportions of a total obsession. Reluctantly, she seeks medical help and advice. Paul, eventually distracted sufficiently from his work to realise that all is not as it should be with his wife’s mental state, proposes the holiday in Tunisia.

 

The sections of the book dealing with the package holiday are the parts which mainly provide rich comedy as well as a frame for the memories. The Medways become involved with an older couple, the Ackroyds, and also become vaguely acquainted with other members of the group. The Ackroyds in particular, seem mere figures of amusement, both to the Medways and to the reader. It is only after a lapse of some time that the couple’s qualities and essential genuineness become apparent, to say nothing of the underlying strength of their marriage.

 

Margaret Bacon’s writing is, as always, smooth and easy. Her characters have depth and she probes right into them with both dialogue and narrative. There is light there is shade; humour and pathos; warmth and chill. “Balance” is a word which comes readily to mind when discussing her work, and she has achieved it yet again in “The Package.”

New Zealand

 

The problem facing Jane, heroine of  The Package, the seventh book by Margaret Bacon, is that she has married Paul who is smooth, only to find that life with him is rough. Not for the obvious reasons: Paul is no wife-beater, simply emotionally and sexually inhibited for reasons which Miss Bacon relates with some sympathy in the skilled exposition of her carefully-constructed novel.

 

Margaret Bacon’s Jane suffers like her husband, from that peculiarly English middle-class reticence which renders her unable to communicate to her husband the emotional pain which their unfulfilled relationship causes her. And on another level too her lack of fulfilment provides this novel’s main theme; her desperate and determined attempts to conceive.

 

During the package holiday which provides the story’s framework there is a violent resolution to Jane’s dual dilemma. Miss Bacon, however, handles it with the moral and artistic subtlety one would expect from her background of education at the same Quaker school attended by fellow-novelist, Margaret Drabble.

Western Morning News

 

Jane Medway did not mind looking at children – it was just babies from whom she had to avert her eyes. And when her childlessness after several years of marriage to Paul, an up-and-coming architect, becomes what seems to him an unhealthy obsession he arranges a package holiday in Tunisia.

 

The story flows like a sparkling stream along a well-defined channel, with flashback sequences skilfully introduced at intervals as Jane links events in the present with the past.

 

Jane’s obsession springs from her lack of real communication with Paul, and the quicksands of their marriage are highlighted subtly by the cheerful arguments enjoyed by their new-found friends, the Ackroyds from Yorkshire, whose marriage has a much firmer base.

 

The novel is sprinkled liberally with humour, too. The reader cannot but chuckle over the Ackroyds’ constant badinage – and the well-observed, almost music-hall, package tourist patter.

 

It is a serious theme though, in which the author uses with great sensitivity her gift of insight into human relationships.

 

A “Woman’s” novel with an underlying message, perhaps, for couples who may share the Medways predicament, “The Package“  is bound to find its way among those titles which, once started, just have to be finished.

Sunday Independent