Sarah Rigby

Sarah Rigby edited Patricia Beer’s As I Was Saying Yesterday: Selected Essays and Reviews, published by Carcanet. Some years ago she worked for this paper: now she lives in New York City.

So Amused: Fay Weldon

Sarah Rigby, 11 July 2002

There is an unusual emphasis on ghosts in Fay Weldon’s autobiography. Early on, angels appear to her mother in the local park; a woman in white sits on the six-year-old Weldon’s bed; and ghosts unaccountably darken the rooms at her New Zealand high school (a sort of advance haunting, she now thinks, by the woman who was to be killed nearby in the murder dramatised in the film

Bodily Speaking: Zoë Heller

Sarah Rigby, 29 July 1999

Willy Muller, the 50-year-old narrator of Everything You Know, confides at the beginning of the novel that he doesn’t understand his girlfriend’s attachment to him. He treats her badly, but she won’t be shaken off. ‘Her stoicism would be understandable if I had money or charm or an enormous penis,’ he says. ‘But I have none of these things. It’s odd.’‘

Diary: ME

Sarah Rigby, 20 August 1998

Last week I walked home from Shepherd’s Bush Green. It isn’t far – people who come to visit say it takes them about ten minutes – but it felt like a considerable achievement. I haven’t been able to walk that far since I’ve lived in this part of London. It wasn’t just that I could cover the distance – at a push I could have done that six months ago – but I didn’t have any pain in the days which followed, which was an indication of how much I’ve improved. Two years ago, when I first moved here, I couldn’t comfortably walk from one room of my flat to another, and when I tried to ignore the pain and go further, it always got worse.’

Mind’s Eye: Beryl Bainbridge

Sarah Rigby, 4 June 1998

All through Beryl Bainbridge’s latest novel, characters dwell on chance and fate, and the string of coincidences that link their lives. These aren’t new preoccupations for Bainbridge; one of the striking things about her earlier novels was the rather ambivalent way in which chance was used. There were random, grotesque accidents and sudden deaths, involving incidental characters who had no relevance to the plot until the moment of their intrusion into the narrative – a boy tripping forward into a pane of glass and dying instantly on the pavement (An Awfully Big Adventure); an unknown man staggering towards the narrator, to die in his arms (Every Man for Himself). Sometimes these episodes turned out to be significant; sometimes they were allowed to drop away altogether. In the same way, remarkable coincidences surfaced, but they tended to be unimportant or related to the past. Characters ascribed them to the workings of God or, having failed to explain them, decided they must be purely random.’

The Curse of a Married Man’s Life

Sarah Rigby, 27 November 1997

When my grandmother was 16, she told her headmaster that she wanted to study science at university. This did not go down well. Though she had always come first in science in her (co-educational) class, the headmaster was adamant: he was not teaching Higher School Certificate maths to girls. Or chemistry. Or physics. She was allowed to do biology, but apart from that had to choose arts subjects. She managed to persuade the local university that, were they to enrol her, she would teach herself everything she should have covered at school – which she somehow did. My grandmother was 16 in 1932, and whenever I start to think of feminism as unnecessary or irrelevant, I remind myself of how recent that is and how much has been achieved since then.

Lily and Lolly

Sarah Rigby, 18 July 1996

Shortly before he died in 1922. John Butler Yeats wrote an angry, defensive letter to his eldest son William. W.B. Yeats had published a memoir in the Dial and his father objected to the almost parenthetical mention in one episode of an ‘enraged’ Yeats family. The remark unleashed in him a long-restrained irritation, prompting an impassioned defence of his daughters. ‘As to Lily and Lolly,’ John Yeats wrote,

Making Lemonade

Sarah Rigby, 8 June 1995

Critics don’t think much of Joanna Trollope’s novels. They call them inconsequential, petty and suburban. But that’s beside the point, because as far as money and fame are concerned she’s a phenomenal success. The critical reaction isn’t surprising: very popular writers are often dismissed in this way. Trollope, though, has some claim to be taken more seriously.

Letter
Simon Wessely (Letters, 17 September) now claims that he sees a distinction between ME and CFS, two years after his instrumental role in the Royal Colleges committee whose final report specifically (and, many felt, inappropriately) recommended that ‘ME’ should be renamed ‘CFS’. Even if he now makes a distinction between the two terms, he certainly did not do so in his Guardian...

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences