A Staircase in Surrey

From Academic Kids

A Staircase in Surrey is a sequence of five novels by Scottish novelist and academic J. I. M. Stewart (19061994), and published between 1974 and 1978. The title refers to student accommodation in an imaginary Oxford college. (A staircase, in the more traditionally designed colleges, would identify a group of students' rooms, leading off a quadrangle.)

The narrator and central character is playwright Duncan Patullo, who returns to his old college, after a long absence, for the gaudy celebrations. On arrival, he discovers that an old acquaintance, fellow Scot Ranald McKechnie, now a lecturer at the college, is married to Patullo's one-time girlfriend, Janet. The second novel, Young Patullo, recaps on the story of their former relationship and Patullo's undergraduate career. Celebrated fantasy writer and Oxford don J. R. R. Tolkien appears as elderly "Professor Timberlake."

During his extended stay in Oxford, Patullo meets some of his former tutors as well as some current undergraduates, and becomes embroiled in the internal affairs of the college. The discovery of a lost masterpiece by Piero della Francesca proves crucial to the college's future fortunes, and Patullo is able to help when it is stolen.

The books, in order of publication, are:

  • The Gaudy
  • Young Patullo
  • A Memorial Service
  • The Madonna of the Astrolabe
  • Full Term
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