Balkan Trilogy, The
The Great Fortune, The Spoilt City, Friends and Heroes, émigré
The Great Fortune opens with the arrival in Bucharest of Guy Pringle, a young British Council lecturer, and his wife, Harriet, whom he has just married. Set in 1939, with Europe on the point of war, the Bucharest expatriate society is split into rival factions. Some, like the incorrigible reprobate Prince Yakimov, a Russian émigré down on his luck, pledge allegiance to neither faction. Guy, whose Marxist idealism co-exists with a certain naïvety about the political in-fighting at the British Council, allows his position to be undermined by unscrupulous colleagues. He displays a similar lack of insight in his relations with Sophie Oresanu, a seductive Romanian girl whose spiteful behaviour towards Harriet contributes towards the latter's misgivings about her marriage. The book ends with the news that France has fallen to the Nazis.
The Spoilt City opens with Bucharest in turmoil; the British contingent, anticipating the Nazi invasion, are making plans to escape. Guy and Harriet offer shelter to Sasha Drucker, a Jewish boy from a wealthy family, whose father has been imprisoned, but their plans to save him are sabotaged by Yakimov, who betrays him to the Germans in order to gain personal advantage. The situation becomes increasingly dangerous and Guy persuades Harriet to leave for Athens, where he promises to follow her in due course.
Friends and Heroes is set in Athens and concerns the Pringles' attempts to establish some kind of security in the midst of the deteriorating international situation. Guy's plans to find work are repeatedly thwarted by his colleagues, including the rascally Dubedat and Lush and the overbearing Lord Pinkrose, and he is reduced to organizing an RAF concert party, which he does with enthusiasm, much to Harriet's chagrin. Harriet becomes involved with Charles Warden, a young British officer stationed in the city, but stops short of having an affair with him when it becomes clear that he is in love with her. As the novel closes, the political situation is once more dangerously unstable: the Germans have entered Greece; Yakimov, who has followed the British contingent to Athens, is killed by a sniper's bullet; and the Pringles, together with most of their British Council associates, secure a passage to Alexandria.