Our hero, if he can be called such a name, has received a raw deal from life, and learned that ruthlessness and violence can be deployed to his advantage.
His girlfriend, (one of many, but the one who has stuck), is Ida, a frothy concoction of cheap scent, low cleavage and wild and colourful language. She is cheeky and can be spiteful, as can be gathered from the extract below of Ida's exploits in the pub ---
"Hey", the drink might have deadened Ida's sharper instincts, but she knew an insult when she heard one, "who the bloody 'ell d'you think you are then eh, eh".
"Well I never ever seen anythin' luv, live an' let live, that's what I says", Henry could see where this might lead, and did'nt like it either.
"You bloody little liar, you bloody little liar", this was the effervescent Ida starting to fizz.
"Who you callin' a liar?", the woman, much to Henry's chagrin, was'nt going to let Ida's wild accusations go unchallenged.
"'Im, that's who, 'im", and her accusing finger pointed straight at Henry.
"What you talkin' about?", Henry gurgled.
" Why, them eyes' o'yours 'ave never been off my bust since I come in 'ere", Ida, who was an expert on masculine eye movements, delivered the verdict.
"What", spluttered the unfortunate Henry.
"You 'eard, you bloody well an' 'eard".
But one thing is certain, she is deeply and irrevocably committed to Noakes, through all the vagaries of his eventful and violent existence.
Then Fiona arrives on the scene. Daughter of a mine owner, well educated, sensitive, a radical with a social conscience. Noakes is captivated by her, as she is by him. Is Noakes' interest in her money and status, or in her, we never really know, and it is questionable whether Noakes himself ever really works this out. This does however point up one of the central questions raised in the novel, people as means, or people as ends.
Things seem to develop between them, both physically and emotionally. She mocks him in the most charming way, turning to the vernacular when it suits her ---
"Hey lad, I can eat mi tripe wit' best of 'em tha knows"Ch5
Their future seems idyllic, with Noakes' success at his evening school suggesting an extra mural place at Oxford, and his heroics in the mine making him a local celebrity.
However, Noakes' dark side, his shady dealings, begin to catch up with him. Their relationship begins to sour, and Noakes begins to retreat to safety, the ever welcoming arms of Ida.
Fiona for her part seeks solace with her friend, Daisy May. This displeases Fiona's father John, who has profound suspicions about Daisy regarding her dress and her lifestyle. His concerns are to some extent assuaged by his brother, the mischievious uncle Richard, whose wise counsel Fiona always seeks, and whose 'lady in waiting' is both a constant source of amusement and 'emancipation baiting' for Fiona. Fiona discovers in Daisy something more than a companion.
Noakes' final downfall is triggered when a fellow tough miner discovers Noakes' secret dealings with management and takes the decision to blackmail Noakes. This leads to a cataclysmic midnight encounter between the two, resulting in the murder of the fellow miner. Noakes disposes of the body.
Noakes' life changes, he suspects everything. He takes up with Ida, and they rent a small house. This Ida, however, is a different creature than previously. She has been attending Fiona's ladies evening classes, and has now aquired a developing interest in life and literature. This is a distortion of Noakes' settled vision, where women like Ida have a certain place and a certain functon in life. He is, to say the least, disquieted.
The body is discovered, but noone suspects Noakes, except Ida. Profoundly troubled, she goes to see Fiona. But Fiona, herself in a turmoil of emotion, and to her great chagrin, is full only of platitudes, and sends Ida back to her fate.
Whether Noakes feels threatened by Ida's new learning, or whether he finds out about her visit to Fiona, we can only guess. Whatever it was, it led to Ida's grisly fate.
Fiona, filled with remorse regarding the way she spoke to Ida, finds her way to Ida's house accompanied by Daisy May. The scene that meets her there sets her path, she crosses her Rubicon.
Noakes feels he is safe from Fiona, for is'nt she a part of the upper classes, and whatever she spouts, whatever revolutionary rhetoric escapes from her lips, she will never, never threaten her position and the position of her family.
But has Noakes reasoned correctly this time, has he stirred something so deep in Fiona that she must, whatever the cost, shake this mind set of the inherent selfishness of mankind???
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A Fateful Aberration by Les Jones available on Kindle £0.99
A frothy concoction of cheap scent, low cleavage and wild and colourful language, a savage intellect, a thoughtful mind schooled in the thoughts of Mary Wollstonecraft. It's a must read.