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Charlot v. Hulot

David Trotter: Tativille, 2 July 2020

Play Time: Jacques Tati and Comedic Modernism 
by Malcolm Turvey.
Columbia, 304 pp., £25, December 2019, 978 0 231 19303 0
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The Definitive Jacques Tati 
edited by Alison Castle.
Taschen, 1136 pp., £185, June, 978 3 8365 7711 3
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... evidence of his intentions, we now have from Taschen a sumptuous five-volume box set edited by Alison Castle, which contains stills, scripts, interviews, autobiographical fragments and helpful introductions to each of the films. The scripts, in particular, make it clear that Tati’s methods left no room at all for improvisation. He planned in advance ...

Holy Terrors

Penelope Fitzgerald, 4 December 1986

‘Elizabeth’: The Author of ‘Elizabeth and her German Garden’ 
by Karen Usborne.
Bodley Head, 341 pp., £15, October 1986, 0 370 30887 5
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Alison Uttley: The Life of a Country Child 
by Denis Judd.
Joseph, 264 pp., £15.95, October 1986, 0 7181 2449 9
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Richmal Crompton: The Woman behind William 
by Mary Cadogan.
Allen and Unwin, 169 pp., £12.95, October 1986, 0 04 928054 6
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... These three women writers were mythmakers. Alison Uttley created Little Grey Rabbit (1929-1973), Richmal Crompton thought of Just William and kept him going for 48 years, May Annette Beauchamp invented herself as Elizabeth. All three of them were, and had to be, resilient women, gallant survivors, Elizabeth in particular ...

Upper-Class Contemplative

John Bayley, 7 February 1985

The Fountain 
by Charles Morgan.
Boydell, 434 pp., £4.95, November 1984, 0 85115 237 6
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... be wrong with Morgan’s prose, as with other fine writing of the period. This is the library of a castle in Holland. ‘Here indeed the hours went by in untroubled calm, there being in old books, as in a country churchyard, so deep and natural an acceptance of mortality, that to handle them and observe their brief passions, their urgent persuasions, now ...

Unruly Sweet Peas

Alison Light: Working-Class Gardens, 18 December 2014

The Gardens of the British Working Class 
by Margaret Willes.
Yale, 413 pp., £25, March 2014, 978 0 300 18784 7
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... uncertain. She dubs Wemmick in Great Expectations, the lawyer’s clerk who lives in a miniature castle in Walworth, ‘middle class’, adding that ‘his fellow gardeners may well have been working class.’ Dickens places him nicely as an aspirant. His portable property and garden ‘estate’ separates his home and his Aged Parent from the sordid world ...

Only More So

Rosemary Hill: 1950s Women, 19 December 2013

Her Brilliant Career: Ten Extraordinary Women of the Fifties 
by Rachel Cooke.
Virago, 368 pp., £18.99, October 2013, 978 1 84408 740 2
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... and an unmarked grave at ‘some crossroads where the omnibuses now stop outside the Elephant and Castle’. For a playwright, a film director or an architect, a room of one’s own isn’t enough. Those of Cooke’s subjects whose work required them to exercise authority, to organise and control large numbers of people, subverted conventional hierarchies ...

Smart Girls

Emma Tennant, 17 July 1980

‘Clever Gretchen’ and Other Forgotten Folktales 
by Alison Luire.
Heinemann, 128 pp., £3.50, May 1980, 0 434 94899 3
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... after seven years and goes wandering in a countryside devastated by war. Finding herself in the castle of her lost prince’s betrothed, a sinfully ugly bride who sprains her ankle on the wedding-day, Maid Maleen exchanges identity with her and goes, protected by the veil, to the church. Nettles in the path are instructed to recognise Maleen as the true ...

Lever-Arch Inquisitor

John Barrell, 29 October 1998

Theatres of Memory. Vol. II. Island Stories: Unravelling Britain 
by Raphael Samuel, edited by Alison Light.
Verso, 391 pp., £20, June 1998, 1 85984 965 2
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... extraordinary range of reading. In what she describes as ‘a biographical note on the text’, Alison Light, Samuel’s widow and one of not many contemporary scholars who can write as gracefully and entertainingly as he did, tells us among other things about his elaborate methods of annotation, the cutting and pasting, the shifting of papers from one to ...

Wolfing it

Angela Carter, 23 July 1987

Honey from a Weed: Fasting and Feasting in Tuscany, Catalonia, the Cyclades and Apulia 
by Patience Gray.
Prospect, 374 pp., £17.50, November 1986, 0 907325 30 0
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A Table in Provence: Classic Recipes from the South of France 
collected and illustrated by Leslie Forbes.
Webb and Bower/Joseph, 160 pp., £12.95, April 1987, 0 86350 130 3
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The Joyce of Cooking: Food and Drink from James Joyce’s Dublin 
by Alison Armstrong, foreword by Anthony Burgess.
Station Hill Press, 252 pp., $18.95, December 1986, 0 930794 85 0
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... the walls calls to mind the Bourbon Kings of Naples, who once a year ordered the construction of castle edifices made of stout edible materials – gigantic hams, cheeses, enormous mortadelle, and the fore and hindquarters of deer and Indian buffalo, in order then to gloat at the spectacle of the starving Neapolitans – admitted at the moment of completion ...

Patron Saints

Jean McNicol, 12 May 1994

Frauen: German Women Recall the Third Reich 
by Alison Owings.
Rutgers, 494 pp., £24.95, October 1993, 0 8135 1992 6
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Solidarity and Treason: Resistance and Exile, 1933-1940 
by Lisa Fittko, translated by Roslyn Theobald.
Northwestern, 160 pp., £29.95, December 1993, 0 8101 1129 2
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... or not altogether sure that they didn’t agree with the Nazis. Several of the 29 women who told Alison Owings about their lives during the 12 years of the thousand-year Reich admit that they wanted the Jews ‘pushed back’. But ‘that they would be killed, that would never have been the idea,’ Ursula Meyer-Semlies says, after reeling off a list of ...

Harnessed to a Shark

Alison Light: Who was Virginia Woolf afraid of?, 21 March 2002

Three Guineas 
by Virginia Woolf, edited by Naomi Black.
Blackwell, 253 pp., £60, October 2001, 0 631 17724 8
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... The political dictator differs only in degree from the suburban tyrant treating his home as his castle or ruling his family with a rod of iron. The university lecturer imposing himself on docile minds and the civil servant lording it in the corridors of power are both little Hitlers, swept together in Woolf’s rhetoric: ‘The whole iniquity of ...


Will Self: Battersea Power Station, 18 July 2013

... status was uppermost in Tincknell’s mind as he led me, together with his head of communications, Alison Dykes, through freshly landscaped grounds – hardwood decking, raised flowerbeds, gravel pathways – towards the sales suite, pointing out on the way a scale model of the power station about the size of the average family home. ‘Isn’t it ...

Serried Yuppiedromes

Owen Hatherley: What happened to London?, 21 August 2014

Guide to the Architecture of London 
by Edward Jones and Christopher Woodward.
Phoenix, 511 pp., £16.99, July 2013, 978 1 78022 493 0
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... estate, which ‘conjures up the now familiar and haunting spectre of urban alienation’. Alison and Peter Smithson’s Robin Hood Gardens in Poplar is a ‘particularly depressing place to live in’, with an ‘almost manic system of walls and moats’, mainly an ‘example of the late modernist avant-garde determination to realise a theoretical ...

Mansions in Bloom

Ruth Richardson, 23 May 1991

A Paradise out of a Common Field: The Pleasures and Plenty of the Victorian Garden 
by Joan Morgan and Alison Richards.
Century, 256 pp., £16.95, May 1990, 0 7126 2209 8
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Private Gardens of London 
by Arabella Lennox-Boyd.
Weidenfeld, 224 pp., £25, September 1990, 0 297 83025 2
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The Greatest Glasshouse: The Rainforest Recreated 
edited by Sue Minter.
HMSO, 216 pp., £25, July 1990, 0 11 250035 8
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Religion and Society in a Cotswold Vale: Nailsworth, Gloucestershire, 1780-1865 
by Albion Urdank.
California, 448 pp., $47.50, May 1990, 0 520 06670 7
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... An appendix provides a series of potted biographies of country estates such as Longleat, Beauvoir Castle and Sandringham: but none of their head gardeners receives like attention. If little is known, then this should be made clear. It would seem that country-house archives and other sources may yet yield good material for a more scholarly examination of such ...

Miracle on Fleet Street

Martin Hickman: Operation Elveden, 7 January 2016

... On​ 11 December, the director of public prosecutions, Alison Saunders, announced that all outstanding cases against Mirror Group journalists for phone hacking would be dropped, and that no corporate case would be brought against Rupert Murdoch’s News UK for hacking or perverting the course of justice. It was Christmas come early on Fleet Street, but that isn’t the way the papers chose to tell it ...

Don’t teach me

Gillian Darley: Ernö Goldfinger, 1 April 2004

Ernö Goldfinger: The Life of an Architect 
by Nigel Warburton.
Routledge, 197 pp., £30, November 2003, 0 415 25853 7
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... similar motifs to a dense cluster development, the misbegotten office towers at the Elephant and Castle, the notes did not play the same tune. It was not until the mid-1960s, twenty years after the end of the war and thirty since he had arrived in England, that Goldfinger finally gained his longed for commissions for large-scale public housing. The ...

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