Places Where They Sing

Places Where They Sing

"Places Where They Sing" is Volume VI of the novel sequence "Alms for Oblivion" by Simon Raven, published in 1970. It was the sixth novel to be published in The "Alms for Oblivion" sequence but is the seventh novel chronologically. The story takes place in Cambridge in 1967.

Characters, in the order of appearance

Ivor Winstanley – Latinist and Fellow of Lancaster College

Jacquiz Helmut – Historian and Fellow of Lancaster College. Appeared in. The Sabre Squadron.

Roger Constable – Provost of Lancaster College. Socialist and a man of high moral standing. Appeared in Fielding Gray, The Sabre Squadron, The Rich Pay Late, Friends In Low Places and The Judas Boy.

Tony Beck – Literary Critic and Young Fellow of Lancaster College. Revolutionary leanings.

Daniel Mond – Brilliant Jewish matemathician and Fellow of Lancaster College where he works quietly. Protagonist of The Sabre Squadron.

Tom Llewyllyn – Writer and historian and also Fellow of Lancaster since 1963. Appeared as a major character in The Rich Pay Late, Friends In Low Places and The Judas Boy.

Hugh Ballister – Undergraduate of Lancaster College. Dragged into revolutionary activities.

Hetta Frith – Parson’s daughter who tries to keep up with the revolutionary leanings of boyfriend Hugh Ballister but who really is, as it turns out, a defender of the old.

Lord Beyfus – Peer, social scientist and Fellow of Lancaster College. Likes to be put to sleep by Mona Corrington and comb the hair on Hetta Frith.

Balbo Blakeney – Biochemist and Fellow of Lancaster College.

Fitz-Margrave Pough – Senior Fellow in Geography at Lancaster College. Hurt his foot during a student protest though this have nothing to do with the protest.

Andrew Ogden – Dean of Chapel at Lancaster College.

Mona Corrington – Anthropologist and Fellow of Girton College. Friend of Beyfus.

Oliver Clewes – Reverend of Lancaster College.

Elvira Constable – Patient wife of Roger Constable.

Fielding Gray – Rather successful writer and former major who since five years lives in a small coast resort with Harriet Ongley. Old friend of Tom Llewyllyn and Daniel Mond. Major character in Fielding Gray, The Sabre Squadron, Friends In Low Places and The Judas Boy.

Harriet Ongley – Rich Widow who have been taking care of Fielding Gray for five years.

Mayerston – Charismatic revolutionary of unknown descent.

Patricia Llewyllyn – Unhappy wife of Tom Llewyllyn. Cheats on him with Hugh Ballister. Appeared in Friends In Low Places and The Judas Boy.

Baby Llewyllyn – Seven year old daughter of Tom and Patricia. Really named Tullia.

Gregory Stern – Publisher. Happily married to Isobel.

Isobel Stern – Happy wife of Gregory Stern. Sister of Patricia Llewyllyn. Appeared in Friends In Low Places and The Judas Boy.

Alfie Schroeder – Decent journalist. Writes articles about the College. Appeared earlier in The Sabre Squadron, The Rich Pay Late and Friends In Low Places.

Lord Canteloupe – Shadow minister of Commerce. Appeared in Sound The Retreat, The Sabre Squadron, Friends In Low Places and The Judas Boy.

Somerset Lloyd-James – MP and close associate of Lord Canteloupe. A major character in Fielding Gray, The Rich Pay Late, Friends In Low Places and The Judas Boy.

Plot Summary

The story takes place in Lancaster College in 1967. The board of the school discusses what to do with a surplus of money. One proposal is to create a building on a nearby meadow to be able to let in more students on the college. Undergraduate Hugh Ballister is drawn into revolutionary activities by Fellow Tony Beck and the unknown revolutionary Mayerston, much to the dismay of his girlfriend Hetta Frith. Tom Llewyllyn, a fellow on the school since 1963, have become impotent and have an unhappy marriage with Patricia. Daniel Mond, the mathematician who was the protagonist of The Sabre Squadron (15 years earlier) is a (literally) quiet man who can only speak in whispers because of an injure to the throat but who is still teaching mathematics. Among other teachers is the odd Lord Beyfus and his friend, the somewhat radical Mona Corrington.

Through Hugh, Mayerston is trying to start violent protest on the campus but most of them ends up as fiascos since the Provost of the College, Roger Constable, ignores them in a mixture of contempt and tolerance. Isobel advises Patricia to take a lover and she ends up in bed with Hugh who she, in a farcical scene, must shut up in the wardrobe, when her daughter unexpectedly comes home. Llewyllyn and Mond invites old friend Fielding Gray to the college but he is rather soon picked up by his overprotecting mistress, Harriet Ongley. Hetta, who have left Hugh, cries on the shoulder of lord Beyfus who very much likes to comb her hair.

The atmosphere on the school turns to the worse and Mayerston uses more violent methods. During a ceremony in the Chapel (with several of the known characters attending) he and his followers bursts in to the building an tries to destroy the altar and the statue of Henry VI. Tom Llewyllyn saves the statue by use of force and Hetta, fed up with the revolution, protects the altar with assistance from lord Canteloupe and some other people. During the tumult she is however killed by a blow to the head. This tragedy kills also the revolutionary atmosphere on the college. Tony Beck and Mayerston disappears. Constable makes notice of how the conservative side have gained a “martyr” in Hetta and find this of some use to keep things calm. Lord Canteloupe comforts the sad Lord Beyfus by giving him the address to Maisie. Patricia comforts Hugh, who have been forgiven for his revolutionary mistakes, in bed.

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