Shop H.E. Bates Online
ID
a109
Title
The Triple Echo
Genre
Novella
Page Count
80
Word Count
17000
Publisher
Cosmopolitan
Daily Telegraph Magazine
Michael Joseph
Publication Year
1969
Document Types
Film & Television
Topics
War, Gender

London: Michael Joseph, 1970. Drawings by Ron Clarke. First published in The Daily Telegraph Magazine in three parts (December 5, 12, and 19, 1969, and later included in Country and Other Matters and The Best of H.E. Bates (1980). Reprinted in Cosmopolitan (September 1972).

Bates's last significant novella, but one which he described as taking twenty-five years to complete, beginning in "the darker days of the war, in 1943, its completion coming in 1968" upon the removal of a superfluous character, after which "light immediately flooded in on a canvas that had been so long irremediably dark, and in a mere three weeks the story was extracted from the womb it had apparently been so reluctant to leave" (The World in Ripeness, 113-114). Set in the 1940s, the wife of a war prisoner lives in desperate loneliness and fear on an isolated farmstead. She encounters a young farmboy completely out of his element as a soldier, and the two carve out a relationship in defiance of the war around them. His decision to escape the military and to dress as his lover's sister to avoid detection eventually leads to tragedy.

In a very late essay ("H.E. Bates -- By Himself") Bates discusses the long evolution of the story's plot, conceived in 1943 with two sisters and completed in 1968 with just the one, what Bates calls "an exceptional example of stumbling and groping or, if you will, of my own prolonged stupidity." Eads notes that on August 29, 1969 Bates sought ballistics advice (related to the use of a gun in the story) from his schoolmaster friend of fifty years, Edmund Kirby.

A film version starring Oliver Reed, Brian Deacon, and Glenda Jackson, and directed by Michael Apted was premiered in November 1972, and issued in the United States with the title Soldiers in Skirts.

Reviews:

Times Literary Supplement (November 27, 1970, p. 1377, David F. Williams, attached)


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