To Be a Pilgrim (The First Trilogy #2) by Joyce Cary, Brad Leithauser (Introduction)

Dedication: To my wife

Description: People lie to themselves and lie to each other, and the lies they tell become their lives. Tom Wilcher, the hero of the second volume of Joyce Cary’s First Trilogy, has been at various times a political activist, a closefisted lawyer, a self-sacrificing brother, and a dirty old man. But as he faces death his unfulfilled spiritual yearnings are uppermost in his mind.

Opening: Last month I suffered a great misfortune in the loss of my housekeeper, Mrs Jimson. She was sent to prison for pawning some old trinkets which I had long forgotten.

Each part of the Triptych is complete in itself. This illustration is by Richard Adams and I love it!

The ‘stars’ of the triptych are Sara Monday, Tom Wilcher and Gulley Jimson and (from the back cover):

‘The overlapping stories form a riotous and exhuberent trilogy, as well as a remarkable fictional experiment.’

To Be a Pilgrim mainly centres round an Victorian evangelical group of Benjamites, the leader being a certain Puggy Brown who has caught Tommy’s willing sister Lucy and married her. If you remember in the Bible, the Benjamites were given leave to pluck women from their surrounding so that this tribe would not become extinct. So Lucy has to share her her man:

Adultery, sport in France. In England shame
Unless designed to glorify God’s name.

These are Tommy’s memories and those times have a bearing on his present time, which is just before WWII.

Wilcher shared so many traits with Scobie from Greene’s The Heart of the Matter, which was my audio read at the same time I was reading this paperback. I ended up detesting Scobie and Wilcher was not likeable, we had already seen that from Sara’s POV in the first book.

4* Herself Surprised
2.5* To Be A Pilgrim
TR The Horse’s Mouth

4* Mister Johnson


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