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Like a Retired Madam

Rosemary Dinnage: Entranced!, 4 February 1999

Mesmerised: Powers of Mind in Victorian Britain 
by Alison Winter.
Chicago, 464 pp., £23.95, December 1998, 0 226 90219 6
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... modest invalid knew enough to know that she was living in an age of prescientific ferment. One of Alison Winter’s main points in Mesmerised is that, in an age when so much of what was being discovered seemed extraordinary, a belief in the widely attested mesmeric phenomena was no more fanciful than a belief in electricity. The history of mesmerism, or ...

The Me Who Knew It

Jenny Diski, 9 February 2012

Memory: Fragments of a Modern History 
by Alison Winter.
Chicago, 319 pp., £19.50, January 2012, 978 0 226 90258 6
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... the interpretations, so to reassure us about the mechanism and reliability of remembering, but, as Alison Winter’s deft study of 20th-century memory controversies concludes, we haven’t come close to a definitive answer. Yet, alongside our anxiety about the trustworthiness of remembering, there is an opposite pull, which is quite as powerful, towards ...

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 ...

Dressing and Undressing

Anita Brookner, 15 April 1982

The Language of Clothes 
by Alison Lurie.
Heinemann, 272 pp., £10, April 1982, 0 434 43906 1
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The Thirties Family Knitting Book 
edited by Jane Waller.
Duckworth, 95 pp., £5.95, September 1981, 0 7156 1601 3
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Chanel and Her World 
by Edmonde Charles-Roux.
Weidenfeld, 354 pp., £25, October 1981, 0 297 78024 7
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Dior in Vogue 
by Brigid Keenan.
Octopus, 192 pp., £9.95, October 1981, 0 7064 1634 1
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Creative Dressing 
by Kaori O’Connor.
Penguin, 192 pp., £4.95, September 1981, 1 4004 6247 9
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Doing it with style 
by Quentin Crisp.
Eyre Methuen, 157 pp., £5.95, October 1981, 0 413 47490 9
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... plaid blouses ... To be sure, academic gatherings are not noted for their elegance, but if, as Alison Lurie tells me, clothes are signifiers, or signs, or if, to put it another way, dressing is discourse, then there are several messages to be read here that would have spelled out disquieting news for Baudelaire. The first is that all degrees of seniority ...

Amor vincit Vinnie

Marilyn Butler, 21 February 1985

Foreign Affairs 
by Alison Lurie.
Joseph, 291 pp., £8.95, January 1985, 0 7181 2516 9
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... of film is? Are these other readers encountering looking-glass versions of themselves? At least Alison Lurie’s Foreign Affairs turns out not to be the more familiar kind of campus novel. Its heroine Vinnie Miner is going to London to do research, but she is not visiting some windswept new or crumbling old campus, and will not have to cope with superseded ...

End of the Century

John Sutherland, 13 October 1988

Worlds Apart 
by David Holbrook.
Hale, 205 pp., £10.95, September 1988, 9780709033639
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Story of My Life 
by Jay McInerney.
Bloomsbury, 188 pp., £11.95, August 1988, 0 7475 0180 7
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Forgotten Life 
by Brian Aldiss.
Gollancz, 284 pp., £11.95, September 1988, 0 575 04369 5
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Incline Our hearts 
by A.N. Wilson.
Hamish Hamilton, 250 pp., £11.95, August 1988, 0 241 12256 2
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... youth of Eighties Manhattan. The life in question is that of a rich-kid girl and would-be actress, Alison Poole, who tells her story in the first person. It has the contours of a moral tract. While ‘busting her ass’ at Lee Strasberg’s studio, Alison gets by on a handsome (but inadequate for the lifestyle) monthly ...

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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... uses for goose fat. In a cassoulet. In soups. On bread. On toast. ‘On your chest, rubbed in in winter. On leather boots, if they squeak. On your hands if they are chapped.’ Above all, it is a book about a particular sensibility – a unique and pungent one – that manifests itself most characteristically in the kitchen. That is what the genre is all ...

At Tate Britain

Julian Bell: John Everett Millais, 15 November 2007

... pictorial music, in which its factual content has no active part. As Jason Rosenfeld and Alison Smith, the curators of Millais, the Tate’s endlessly surprising new show, point out in the catalogue, the painting is an early harbinger of the Aestheticism that would swing into vogue during the 1860s.* Not long afterwards, Millais was painting harmonic ...

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 ...

Lady Talky

Alison Light: Lydia Lopokova, 18 December 2008

Bloomsbury Ballerina: Lydia Lopokova, Imperial Dancer and Mrs John Maynard Keynes 
by Judith Mackrell.
Weidenfeld, 476 pp., £25, April 2008, 978 0 297 84908 7
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... In Hans Christian Andersen’s famous tale, Karen, a peasant girl, goes barefoot in summer and in winter wears wooden clogs that rub her feet raw, but the mirror tells her she’s lovely and she thinks that wearing the red shoes will make her feel like a princess. Like selfish Heidi and tomboy Katy, Karen is a mid-19th century girl crippled by egotism. The ...

Poor Jack

Noël Annan, 5 December 1985

Leaves from a Victorian Diary 
by Edward Leeves and John Sparrow.
Alison Press/Secker, 126 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 436 24370 9
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... and he was taken away.’ Jack’s body is always before his eyes, and the wet and dirt of that winter made him think what had become of that beautiful body as it lay rotting in the ground: ‘the thought makes me shudder.’ There are echoes in his limp grief. ‘Strong thunder and lightning ... Poor Boy! I trust that he sleeps ...

Diary

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 ...

‘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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... and over the pond ... It has been 2000 years, the spring and summer of our era. What then will the winter be? Lawrence wasn’t alone in forecasting the unravelling of everything. Hardy wrote in 1914 of his feeling ‘that we are living in a more brutal age than that, say, of Elizabeth’, which ‘does not inspire one to write hopeful poetry, or even ...

Political Purposes

Frances Spalding: Art in postwar Britain, 15 April 1999

New Art New World: British Art in Postwar Society 
by Margaret Garlake.
Yale, 279 pp., £35, July 1998, 0 300 07292 9
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Cultural Offensive: America’s Impact on British Art since 1945 
by John Walker.
Pluto, 304 pp., £45, September 1988, 0 7453 1321 3
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... Can Make It – elicited a mocking ‘Britain Can’t Have It’, as coal shortages, a severe winter and economic problems began to undermine Labour’s reforms. As her title suggests, Garlake is fascinated by the connections between art and society in the postwar era. However, her book offers not a chronological history of the period but a set of linked ...

Serried Yuppiedromes

Owen Hatherley: What happened to London?, 20 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 ...

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