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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 ...

Why we have them I can’t think

Rosemary Hill: ‘Mrs Woolf and the Servants’, 16 August 2007

Mrs Woolf and the Servants: The Hidden Heart of Domestic Service 
by Alison Light.
Fig Tree, 376 pp., £20, August 2007, 978 0 670 86717 2
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... between domestic servants and their masters and mistresses, especially mistresses, is the theme of Alison Light’s study of the home life of Virginia Woolf, whose complicated relationship with her own cook, Nellie Boxall, involved a degree of intimidation on both sides. The sight of Virginia and Leonard pacing the squares of Bloomsbury, well out of ...

‘Come, my friend,’ said Smirnoff

Joanna Kavenna: The radical twenties, 1 April 1999

The Radical Twenties: Aspects of Writing, Politics and Culture 
by John Lucas.
Five Leaves, 263 pp., £11.99, January 1997, 0 907123 17 1
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... a culture first hand while actually shaping it into a form, a generality’ (in the words of Alison Light, quoted in the book). To avoid a charge of shaping and labelling, he offers ‘radical’ as an anti-term: ‘not’ the jazz age, ‘not’ the metropolis, ‘not’ the Wall Street Crash, ‘not’ the Bright Young Thing, ‘not’ the ...


Alison Brackenbury, 20 November 1986

... tread Pavement as bare, as smooth as palms. Her dark eyes close. Where traffic ebbs She leaves her light weight in my ...

Bourgeois Reveries

Julian Bell: Farmer Eliot, 3 February 2011

Romantic Moderns: English Writers, Artists and the Imagination from Virginia Woolf to John Piper 
by Alexandra Harris.
Thames and Hudson, 320 pp., £19.95, October 2010, 978 0 500 25171 3
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... central to any account of the period, only steps out from the wings to introduce an Oxford Book of Light Verse that is a ‘brilliant correction’ of his own poetry’s ‘wayward obscurity’, and to serve as an unlikely ally to the avowedly nostalgic John Betjeman. Likewise, we get no more than a brief sidelong glimpse of George Orwell. So be it. Let’s ...

Stand the baby on its head

John Bayley, 22 July 1993

The Oxford Book of Modern Fairy Tales 
edited by Alison Luire.
Oxford, 455 pp., £17.95, May 1993, 0 19 214218 6
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The Second Virago Book of Fairy Tales 
edited by Angela Carter.
Virago, 230 pp., £7.99, July 1993, 1 85381 616 7
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... meaning is clear but coyly hidden, as in many modern fictions; although the examples sought out by Alison Lurie have as much cunning and high spirits in them as the old tales. In Ursula LeGuin’s ‘The Wife’s Tale’ (1982) it takes us a few pages to spot that the wife is a wolf, her husband a mere man. But the meaning is always there, urging us to spot ...

The Body in the Library Is Never Our Own

Ian Patterson: On Ngaio Marsh, 5 November 2020

... A restricted setting, such as a big house, intensifies these conflicting pressures. (Alison Light has said that Christie’s novels can be read as ‘one huge advertisement of the murderousness of English social life and of the desperate need to convert to pleasure all those anxieties which an existence like that of the postwar middle ...

The trouble is I’m dead

Elizabeth Lowry: Hilary Mantel’s Fiends, 19 May 2005

Beyond Black 
by Hilary Mantel.
Fourth Estate, 451 pp., £16.99, May 2005, 0 00 715775 4
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... bugs that eat the flesh.’ There is an unnerving supernatural dimension to this sinister setting. Alison Harte, an overweight, middle-aged medium, works the dormitory towns of the M25, accompanied by her prim assistant, Colette, and her spirit guide, Morris, whom Alison describes to her audience as a former circus ...

Stalking Out

David Edgar: After John Osborne, 20 July 2006

John Osborne: A Patriot for Us 
by John Heilpern.
Chatto, 528 pp., £25, May 2006, 0 7011 6780 7
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... The Power and the Glory, but largely consist of forgotten country-house comedies, French classics, light farces, anodyne musical comedies and the work of Noel Coward and Terence Rattigan (though, unlike today, there were no musical revivals, popstar tributes or shows based on films). In an era when the point of plays was to provide vehicles for star actors to ...


Alison Jolly: Among Lemurs, 2 January 2003

... pylons by the main dam in the rainforest, briefly depriving whole sections of the city of light and pumped water. His daughter Sophie, in a camouflage jump suit, went around paying off his impromptu militia. A change from last year, when she threw a party in a nightclub and wound up dancing on a table to celebrate the fact that her personal bank ...

Sick as a Parrot

Valerie Curtis and Alison Jolly: Animal self-medication, 10 July 2003

Wild Health: How Animals Keep Themselves Well and What We Can Learn from Them 
by Cindy Engel.
Weidenfeld, 276 pp., £20, January 2003, 0 297 64684 2
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... to distinguish these mechanisms is thin, but a proper understanding of such behaviours might shed light on the tangled issue of human behavioural motivation. Aside from the practical difficulties of studying the epidemiology of disease and healing in wild animal populations, there is the problem of what constitutes medication. The line dividing medicine from ...

The Unrewarded End

V.G. Kiernan: Memories of the CP, 17 September 1998

The Death of Uncle Joe 
by Alison Macleod.
Merlin, 269 pp., £9.95, May 1997, 0 85036 467 1
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Enemy Within: The Rise and Fall of the British Communist Party 
by Francis Beckett.
Merlin, 253 pp., £9.95, August 1998, 0 85036 477 9
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... Party membership and the circulation of its newspaper, the Daily Worker, expanding rapidly, that Alison Macleod joined the Party. She was a member from 1939, and from 1944 to 1957 belonged to the Worker’s staff. She left both as a result of the Soviet intervention in Hungary in 1956-57. In recent years Macleod has been rereading her diary notes and ...

Everything You Know

Ian Sansom: Hoods, 3 November 2016

by Alison Kinney.
Bloomsbury, 163 pp., £9.99, March 2016, 978 1 5013 0740 9
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... you know is wrong.’ The mind screw is one of the default tropes of cultural studies. Alison Kinney’s Hood is a minor classic of the genre, replete with every trope and device one might hope for. The book is part of a series entitled Object Lessons, which looks at ‘the hidden lives of ordinary things’ and which are all utterly ‘Fridge ...
British Social Attitudes: The 1987 Report 
edited by Roger Jowell, Sharon Witherspoon and Lindsay Brock.
Gower, 260 pp., £28.50, October 1987, 0 556 00740 9
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Educational Opportunity and Social Change in England 
by Michael Sanderson.
Faber, 164 pp., £3.95, September 1987, 9780571148769
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Wealth and Inequality in Britain 
by W.D. Rubinstein.
Faber, 167 pp., £3.95, August 1986, 0 571 13924 8
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AProperty-Owning Democracy? Housing in Britain 
by M.J. Daunton.
Faber, 148 pp., £3.95, September 1987, 0 571 14615 5
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The Government of Space: Town Planning in Modern Society 
by Alison Ravetz.
Faber, 154 pp., £3.95, August 1986, 9780571145683
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... of Thatcherism as its policies have unfolded. Moreover, the 1987 report throws important light on the Conservatives’ success in recovering sufficiently from their mid-term doldrums in 1985 to achieve victory in 1987. It was not based upon growing support for the policies of Thatcherism, but reflected individuals’ perception of an improvement in ...

Elegy for Gurney

Sarah Howe: Robert Edric, 4 December 2008

In Zodiac Light 
by Robert Edric.
Doubleday, 368 pp., £16.99, July 2008, 978 0 385 61258 6
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... follow the homecoming of men for whom home no longer exists. Edric’s latest novel, In Zodiac Light, revisits similar terrain. Set in the City of London Mental Hospital, Dartford, its protagonist is the poet-composer Ivor Gurney, who was a patient there from December 1922 until his death from tuberculosis 15 years later. Edric’s fascination with lives ...

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