e a m harris

Roaming the byways of literature

‘Towards the End of the Morning’ by Michael Frayn

This book, published in 1969, takes a humorous but nevertheless realistic view of Fleet Street and the newspaper world. Not the world of paparazzi and telephone hacking, but that of one of the quieter departments (not actually named).

The writing is beautiful but not pushy and the characters are clearly drawn. Here is the real world of muddled ambition, frequent anxiety, occasional joy and confused social relationships.

The characters develop in subtle and varied ways, and each is granted a moment of self-insight that they feel will change their lives. As with most revelationery, life-altering moments, the change doesn’t outlive the next mundane demand on their attention.

Towards the end of the book there is a discussion (in a pub – where else) in which an array of main and marginal characters talk about their ambitions to get out or specialise, preferably by the time they’re thirty or at least before forty.

How these characters get on with their plans is indicated at the very end in an amusing, but also rather sad, scene.

If any journalists who formed the models for this story are still alive, they will be in their 70s and 80s and likely looking back wondering what all the sound and fury was about. Those who didn’t make it to so great an age are probably gazing down from the great newsroom in the sky, laughing themselves silly.

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