Shortly before his death last year, Stanley Middleton completed this, his last novel, which concludes a unique depiction of middle-class life in 'Middle England', quietly and cumulatively over many volumes and decades. Once again we are in Beechnall, the constant setting of Stanley Middleton's novels, and his sense of place and his feeling for his characters remains as strong as ever. At the heart of "A Cautious Approach" is a tentative love story, which begins when two lonely men meet, out walking on Christmas Day: Andy invites George home, and there he meets the captivating Mirabel, Andy's former fiancee. George has been a teacher, but ill health has deprived him of his career and confidence, and he has retrained as a postman. This chance encounter, and others that follow, have the potential to shift George's life, and soon he is drawn into a set of uncertain relationships in which past experience, present stoicism and future expectation all play a part.
As ever, but here for the last time, Stanley Middleton's bold experimentation with flashbacks, and the embedding of one scene or dialogue within another, gives added density to his depiction of ordinary, defiantly unfashionable human lives.