Reviews

Brian Westby: A Review

It’s a good job Forrest Reid didn’t write to be famous. Almost seventy years after his death, his novels gather dust in libraries: unthumbed and unadmired. Highly thought of by friends like E.M. Forster and Walter de la Mare during his lifetime, the Ulster writer has since fallen into obscurity. Until now, that is. Few of his works are more poignant than his 1934 novel, Brian Westby, which was republished by Valancourt Books at the end of last year. Despite Reid’s best protestations that “[a]ll the characters and incidents in this novel are imaginary”, it’s hard to avoid its semi-autobiographical resonances. Modelled on the relationship Reid fostered with his young protégé Stephen Gilbert, Brian Westby records the chance encounter between novelist Martin Linton and the son his ex-wife has successfully hidden from him for the best part of two decades. So pervasive was Gilbert’s influence that Reid gave him the …