Simple Life (1935)

Synopsis: Rufus Wade, a young advertising copywriter, awakes one morning to find that he is heartily fed up with the rat race. Accordingly, he chucks in his job, abandons his fiancée and relocates to Wiltshire in search of the simple life of the book’s title. Two like-minded souls (Pip Mendel and his partner Ruth) rescue Rufus from a snowstorm and offer him shelter in their isolated farmhouse. Rufus’s desire to “go native” is soon subsumed by an intense psychological battle with Mendel for Ruth’s affections.

(Covers of all editions)

Click here for a more detailed synopsis but please beware of plot spoilers!

Context: One contemporary reviewer said that he could name the advertising agency that appears in fictional form in Simple Life. I would suggest therefore that this must have been J. Walter Thompson, as Balchin worked closely with that agency whilst developing Black Magic chocolates in the early 1930s. The author’s childhood love of the Wiltshire countryside is also strongly evoked in this novel.

Verdict: The opening chapters are funny and fast-moving. With the exception of one or two set pieces, the remainder of the book is static and lacking in drama. Simple Life is full of ideas but ideas in this case don’t make for a great novel. It is an enjoyable read nonetheless.

Praise for Simple Life:

“A graphic and interesting book” — Cyril Connolly, New Statesman

“A great pleasure to read” — Daily Telegraph

Rating: 6/10

Length: about 84,000 words.

Availability: A brand-new Penhaligon Press edition was published in April 2022 in paperback and ebook versions. This is the first time the book has been available to buy, in any format, since its original publication in 1935. See the homepage of this website for details.