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V. S. Naipaul: Mr. Stone and the Knights Companion
After the very long A House for Mr. Biswas, it is Naipaul’s shortest novel. It is also the only one set in England, with English characters. As a result, it is not considered one of his most successful novels, but still makes for fascinating reading. Mr. Stone is an old man and he realises it when he sees his reflection in a shop window. He is a bachelor and works as a librarian for a commercial firm. He has achieved little and has little to look forward to. Aware of this, he takes two steps to change his life. Firstly, he meets and marries a widow. It is not easy. He has to learn to be a husband. So step by step he became married; and step by step marriage grew on him and Margaret, his wife, adapts to him as he adapts to her. His second step is to propose to his employer a scheme whereby retirees of the firm who are still in good health visit those who are not in good health. The firm jumps on the idea, seeing it as good public relations. Mr. Stone is put in charge of there project, which is named the Knights Companion. Mr. Stone becomes something of a celebrity in the firm and is even written up in the newspapers. But it is too late for Mr. Stone. The younger Mr. Whymper is going to take over the scheme and Mr. Stone is going to retire. The message is clear – sometimes, it really is too late to make your mark.
First published by André Deutsch in 1963