Sherriff is best-known for his play, Journey’s End, set in the trenches of the Great War. This quiet gem of a novel, published in 1931, couldn’t be more different. It’s about an ordinary London family going on an ordinary summer holiday to the English seaside. Nothing dramatic happens, and yet everything happens. Sherriff never patronises his family nor does he idealise them. But by the end he convinces us that their instinctive kindness and decency – towards each other and towards those they encounter during their holiday – has something to do with what is most important about being human.
‘The story was a simple one: a small suburban family on their annual fortnight’s holiday at Bognor. … It was a day-by-day account of their holiday from their last evening at home until the day they packed their bags for their return; how they came out of their shabby boarding house every morning and went down to the sea; how the father found hope for the future in his brief freedom from his humdrum work; how the children found romance and adventure; how the mother, scared of the sea, tried to make the others think she was enjoying it.’