Something to Answer For

London: Faber and Faber, 1968

“Either the girl went off to another part of the beach or she was a vision because Townrow saw no more of her. Of the two possibilities the vision, he thought, was the likelier. The city quivered in her after-glow. The sun was low enough for those clouds to be red. Beyond the black palm trees the Casino Palace Hotel lost its colour, thinned and broke apart over the night rising quickly out of Asia. Concrete, steel, glass, sand and salt water belched a warm sexuality into his face. He could smell all Egypt, from the mud of the Nile to the roasting corn cobs on De Lesseps breakwater. No ordinary girl could have done that to him.

As he shaved a muscle twitched in the corner of his left eye and he put down the razor to look out at the north London roof tops. It was a grey day. Perhaps it would be no bad thing to be out of England for a couple of months.”

It was 1956 and he was in Port Said. About these two facts Townrow was reasonably certain. He had been summoned there, to Egypt, by the widow of his deceased friend, Elie Khoury. Having been found dead in the street, she is convinced he was murdered, but nobody seems to agree with her. What of Leah Strauss, the mistress? And of the invading British paratroops? Only an Englishman, surely, would take for granted that the British would have behaved themselves. In this weirdly disorientating world, Townrow is forced towards a re-examination of the basic rules by which he has been living his life; and into a realization that he too may have something to answer for.

Inaugural winner of the Booker Prize in 1969.

Buy It Now


“Beautifully written, shot through with crisp, mordant wit, and Newby plays out his narrative with consummate skill to ensure it baffles and intrigues, leaving the readers hooked and thrashing about for meaning, desperate for him to reel things in.”

“Newby deserved, and deserves, more attention. Graham Greene called him ‘a fine writer who has never had the full recognition that he deserves,’ and that’s as true now as it was in Newby’s lifetime . . . Something to Answer For is set in the Egypt of 1956, during the Suez Crisis, and it boasts a wonderful sense of place.”

Paris Review

“A vividly exciting novel.”

Sunday Telegraph

“Masterly . . . Egypt at the time of Suez is not the best place to mislay your background, have a mysteriously motivated love affair, or sort out the oddities of an old friend’s death. But Mr. Newby has a sure touch with the bizarre, and a pleasing comic seriousness.”

Financial Times

“Something to Answer For, like most of the writer’s novels, is set in Egypt, a country which fascinates the author and of which he has considerable knowledge. The background of the novel is violent – suspected murder and brutal assault in the Egypt of 1956 and the Suez crisis. The scene is depicted with brilliance, the British and Egyptian characters with perception and sympathy. P. H Newby, an extremely professional writer, is always readable, often humorous, his prose is elegant, the violence and tragedy understated never emphasised.”

Somerset Country Gazette

“Besides much that is genteel or sensational, too decorative or too thinly cerebral in English fiction today, its vision, its concreteness and its finely articulate energy are properly to be prized.”

Mr. W. L. Webb, chairman of the Booker Prize judges, 1969

“Townrow, the hero of this novel, makes one want to shout with joy. Reading it is taking a ride on a rogue dolphin’s back through The Suez Crisis.”


“The liking for jagged acting, for freakish situations and flurries of irrational violence – these betray the hand of an individual and almost alarmingly skilled novelist. Mr. Newby’s hard task is to induce empathy with a man ‘just amazed how people put up with the fact of being human.’ And he manages it. ‘Craft’ is the sort of word that’s used of his books; but design on this level of achievement is as much vision as technique.”

Pat Rogers, Observer

“Something to Answer For is a most enjoyable novel… The plot is almost as intricate as that of a good detective story. It is beautifully written, the dialogue is witty and amusing and the background is both macabre and colourful.”

Oxford Mail

“Mr. Newby’s novel seems to have as many levels as a flight of steps; it is also amusing, serious, intelligent, metaphysical and exciting… The writing is pure art.”


“Mr. Newby’s new novel is an absorbing feat of narrative ingenuity, a study of psychological disorientation which traces its plot-line with immense skill and resource through the mist of the mental confusion which besets its main character… Brilliantly resourceful entertainment.”

Times Literary Supplement

“Magnificent… The book hooks the imagination [and] is a challenge and ultimately rewarding, not least for its mordant humour.”

New Statesman


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One of the Founders


Something to Answer For

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A Lot to Ask




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